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Abstract

One can read the Odyssey as the product of a poetic tradition interested in innovating the very process of its own narrative performance. In my thesis I focus on examples of metanarrative that feature a particular type of internal narration: the communication of gods with men. In particular, the Odyssey features two apparent aberrations of the standard portrayals of 'Homeric' divination—one, a dream scene, Penelope's 'symbolic' dream in Book 19, another, a moment of prophecy, Theoklumenos’ 'ecstatic vision' in Book 20. I will argue, however, that Penelope’s and Theoklumenos’ scenes are not aberrant so much as purposefully exceptional. In other words, I will propose that both scenes can be understood more productively as depictions that have been conscientiously stylized by the poet(s) to encourage a reception by their audience that is similarly aware of the scenes’ metacommentative, and especially metapoetic, significance. Indeed, by manipulating the standard representations of gods and men as they communicate within epic narrative, the poet has crafted an innovative and self-referential exploration of the vehicle of that communication between gods and men, the medium. Along with the poet, both Penelope and Theoklumenos are mediums within the epic because they act as the intermediary between the gods and mankind in moments when information from the divine sphere is shared with the human sphere. I will argue that the poet takes advantage of the metanarrative nature of these scenes, in order to disclose to his audience the essence of his own poetic contributions which are otherwise obfuscated by traditional elements of the genre. In line with the other metanarrative innovations of the Odyssey, the poet uses the scenes of Penelope and Theoklumenos as internal descriptions of his own role in order to challenge traditional conceptions about divination and divination’s sister craft, poesis.

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