Students new to the /Odyssey/ sometimes find disappointing the relative absence of the kind of psychological realism we find in novels, and leave the poem with a secure sense of Odysseus’s wanderings but a suspicion that the Homeric notion of character doesn’t extend much past its famous epithets. What the poem seems to demand, however, is a different strategy for interpreting the relationship between narrative and character. In this seminar we’ll consider the /Odyssey’s/ narrative structure – its retrospection, the contrived nature of many of its inset stories, the dissimulations of its storytellers – as a map of thought and memory, a rich and sophisticated way to get at the nature of the psyche. We’ll read excerpts from Robert Fagles’s translation of the /Odyssey/, with special attention to some of the narrative cruxes.
Seminar led by Amelia Zurcher, Marquette University