Odyssey Questions Books 6-12


What do you make of the boundaries between humans and gods in the Odyssey? What rituals and distinctions are observed when humans and gods meet?

Who are the Phaeacians? What kind of society do they have? Their lifestyle? Why are they so nice to Odysseus?

What do you make of the erotic interplay between Nausicaa and Odysseus?

8.300ff: The bard sings the adulterous tale of “the Love of Ares and Aphrodite” which does not seem to portray the gods in a very kind light. How might this be a reflection on the mortal world? Is this an instance of the poem as a narrative “fractal” (a thing that reveals repeating pattern in every scale)?

8..100-110: As the bard sang his tale, “Odysseus, clutching his flaring sea-blue cape in both powerful hands, drew it over his head and buried his handsome face, ashamed his hosts might see him shedding tears.” Why does we weep?

“The Homeric simile” is one of the defining features of the poem. Look up its definition. The one in 8.586-600, one of the most beautiful, Odysseus weeps again. Rather surprisingly, he is described as “a women weeps, her arms flung round her darling husband, a man who fell in battle. . .” There seems to be a gender as well as victor/defeated reversal here. Why?

Why does Odysseus tell his own autobiographic story in books 9-12? Why not have the poet himself narrate it? How trustworthy is Odysseus in his tales?

What kinds of women does Odysseus meet on his journeys? What is the power dynamic between Odysseus and these women?

The episode of the sirens: what do these enchantresses promise? Why are they so beguiling? In what ways does Odysseus get to have his cake and eat it too?

The blinding of the Cyclopes: this is one of the most celebrated episodes in the poem. What does this reveal to us about “cultural difference” or “the Other”? In what ways are Odysseus’s actions a demonstration of his metis? (Greek word for cunning, intelligence.)

What are Agamemnon and Achilles most concerned with in the underworld?  How might this relate to the themes of the poem so far?

What other examples of “narrative fractal” or moments of meta-poetic self-reflexivity can you find?

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