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Homer: Women

5. Penelope

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the figure of Penelope in the Odyssey, focusing in particular on: (i) the role of women in the Odyssey and how they contribute to the central themes of the poem; (ii) the importance of Penelope in particular – the central figure in Odysseus’ oikos, a figure who parallels Odysseus in many ways, e.g. in her intelligence and cunning; (iii) the vexed issue of when Penelope actually recognises Odysseus, and the various interpretations that have been offered by scholars; (iv) the importance of the recognition scene in the Odyssey as a whole, including: Penelope’s role in the restoration of Odysseus’ political status; the light it sheds on Odysseus and Penelope as a married couple, etc. and (v) the importance, once again, of thinking about women in Homer.


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

APA style

Hauser, E. (2019, December 02). Homer: Women - Penelope [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Hauser, E. "Homer: Women – Penelope." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 02 Dec 2019,

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