Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 February 2020
The Odyssey is easy to excerpt; the Iliad is not. That crucial difference informs any analysis of the surprisingly diverse range of receptions of Homer since 1900. The Iliad is constructed tightly and linearly as the ineluctable consequences of Achilles’ anger: from quarrel to revenge to ransom. The Odyssey, by contrast, sprints and bobs through multiple, complete episodes, relayed temporally in flashbacks and through prophecies: it boasts a Telemakhia, an “intermezzo” among the Phaeacians, a fantastic voyage, a series of Aristotelian recognition scenes, two separate trips to the Underworld, a slaughter of suitors and handmaidens, and a reunion of three generations of Ithakans. In other words, the Odyssey is as polytropos, “of many turns,” as its titular hero: it can be twisted into a narrative pretzel and still remain a recognizable Odyssey.
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