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4. Helen in the Odyssey
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about Helen’s representation in the Odyssey, focusing in particular on: (i) the key questions surrounding Helen – e.g. how does her presentation in the Odyssey differ from that in the Iliad? How does she tie into the wider themes of the Odyssey?, etc.; (ii) Helen’s first appearance in the Odyssey where, as with her first appearance in the Iliad, she is weaving; (iii) the implication of Helen’s use of a ‘drug of forgetfulness’, which she slips into the men’s wine to prevent them from weeping about the war; (iii) Helen and Menelaus’ stories about Troy, both of which reveal more information about Helen than they perhaps intend; (iv) the parallels between Helen’s uncertain marriage to Menelaus and Penelope’s uncertain marriage to Odysseus; and (v) the other women in the poem who represent a threat to Odysseus’ nostos – Calypso, Circe, Nausicaa and Clytemnestra.
In this course, Dr Emily Hauser (University of Exeter) explores the status and role of women in the Iliad and the Odyssey. In the first module, we think about why women matter in Homer, and the difficulty of recovering the experience of ancient women from the literary and archaeological record. In the second module, we think about the lives and experience of women as they are presented in the Homeric epics – including the centrality of marriage and childbirth, their dependence on their male relatives, and the behaviours expected of them in public and in private. In the third module, we think about the role of Helen in the Iliad, before turning in the fourth module to the role of Helen in the Odyssey. Finally, in the fifth module, we turn the role of Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, in the Odyssey.
Note: Translations of Homer are taken from Richmond Lattimore's Iliad of Homer (1951) and Odyssey of Homer (1967), unless otherwise specified.
Dr Emily Hauser is a Lecturer in the Department of Classics at the University of Exeter. Her research centres on the intersection between gender and poetics in the ancient world, with a particular focus on authorship and gender in antiquity, women in Homeric epic and classical reception in contemporary women's writing. Her recent publications include (as co-editor) Reading Poetry, Writing Genre English Poetry and Literary Criticism in Dialogue with Classical Scholarship. (2018).
Cite this Lecture
Hauser, E. (2019, December 02). Homer: Women - Helen in the Odyssey [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/homer-women/helen-in-the-odyssey
Hauser, E. "Homer: Women – Helen in the Odyssey." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 02 Dec 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/homer-women/helen-in-the-odyssey