pretation. 68 Penelope may be the first to launch this long literary and rhetorical tradition, but in context she raises these questions before returning to the all-too-visible sĒmata of the bed and to accept Odysseus who, in identifying them, has "persuaded her thumos" of his identity.
In conclusion, this entire scene of recognition that revolves around the ruse of the bed continually loops back on itself, like the infinite turnings of a Möbius strip, as it plays off the entwined but also divergent issues of Odysseus' identity and Penelope's fidelity. It does so, as we have seen, through the device of an object that can be minutely described, located in space, and recalled to its functions and emblematic status through the opportunity given to Odysseus to reclaim it in the act of narrating how he first made it. This is an ekphrasis, after all, that describes a work of art. Its function is to transform representation into narration, and it stands in an intermediate space "between the outward force of perceived events and the inner ability to perceive them," so it may finally turn into a convincing sign-symbol of recognition. 69
But there is one last paradox. The conditions of its representational function ensure its unrepresentability. No blueprint can be extracted from the details of the bed's manufacture, and in the long tradition from antiquity to the present day, no artist seems to have taken up the challenge to translate its presence into a visual reality that we may view with our own eyes. It is precisely the vivid and concrete reality of its material existence that ensures its efficacy as the double-sided sign it was meant to be, but, to retain its powers of persuasion, it must remain what it always was: a mental construct, an image in the mind's eye. 70
Heartfelt thanks to Daniel Mendelsohn and Deirdre von Dornum for expert editing and invaluable counsel.