The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey

By Beth Cohen | Go to book overview

7
Figuring Fidelity in Homer's Odyssey

Froma I. Zeitlin

The Odyssey has an extraordinary capacity for creating memorable visual objects, signs, and symbols as focusing elements of a highly complex narrative structure. In a world ruled by uncertainty, suspension, disguise, and dimmed perception, such apparent tokens of a tangible reality emerge at critical interpretative junctures in the plot, often serving as means of prediction, identification, or proof. 1 Generally speaking, all material objects in both the Iliad and the Odyssey are invested with psychological and cognitive resonances that go far beyond the details of their mere description to exemplify a typical and indispensable mode of charting social and mental experience. As M. I. Finley remarks, the "heroic world is unable to visualize any achievement or relationship except in concrete terms. The gods are anthropomorphized, emotions and feelings are located in specific organs of the body, even the soul was materialized. Every quality or state," he concludes, "had to be translated into some specific symbol, marriage into gifts of cattle, honor into a trophy, friendship into treasure." 2 Jasper Griffin takes another view of this well-known epic feature, judging it "not as just a matter of literary style, but [one that] arises from the way the Homeric poet sees the world itself." "Symbolic and significant objects and gestures," he suggests, "developed out of those which were originally conceived as magical and charged with supernatural power," even if such distinctions are not always absolutely clear. 3 What accounts in part for this sense of compelling presence is an aesthetic quality that heightens the value of articles

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The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Contributors xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Odyssey, History, and Women 3
  • Notes 14
  • 2 - Female Representations and Interpreting the Odyssey 17
  • Notes 26
  • 3 - Between Skylla and Penelope: Female Characters of the Odyssey in Archaic and Classical Greek Art 29
  • Notes 50
  • II - Female Representations in the Odyssey 59
  • 4 - The Plan of Athena 61
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Sirens, Muses, and Female Narrators in the Odyssey 81
  • Notes 89
  • 6 - Penelope as Moral Agent 93
  • Notes 109
  • 7 - Figuring Fidelity in Homer's Odyssey 117
  • Notes 146
  • III - Representations of Female Characters from the Odyssey in Ancient Art 153
  • 8 - Coming of Age in Phaiakia: The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausikaa 155
  • Notes 161
  • 9 - Kirke's Men: Swine and Sweethearts 165
  • Notes 173
  • 10 - Les Femmes Fatales: Skylla and the Sirens in Greek Art 175
  • Notes 183
  • 11 - The Intimate Act of Footwashing: Odyssey 19 185
  • Notes 196
  • References 201
  • Index 219
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