Posts tagged Homer
The Odyssey: Hermes, in medias res

I must confess that for years now I’ve referred to Homer’s The Odyssey for one reason and one reason only — to bring attention to Penelope’s banishment.

One of the first women to appear in the Western canon, she’s (of course) a mother. And her major function (of course) is to portray an exemplary loyal wife. Her husband’s been gone nearly twenty years. We’re talking decades — decades — of not just being a single mother but decades — decades — of celibacy. Seems to me Penelope might be about ready to pop by now, so are we really to believe she isn’t interested in any of those hundred-plus eligible bachelors just lounging around out there? I mean, they all want her and they want her bad. So bad they’ve set up camp and waited years at her very doorstep. Talk about convenience. 

And yet, poor Penelope — or rather, loyal, virtuous, and true Penelope — refuses. She just isn’t ready to “move on.”

Meanwhile, poor homeless Odysseus . . . 

*

[This essay was published in full by apt. It is available here.]

How, if at all, can we write the contemporary?

A little over a year ago, in Lance Olsen's Narrative Theory, I and my classmates were confronted with the question: "How, if at all, can we write the contemporary rather than rewrite the past?"

I was full of ideas, wondered in awe at all the possibilities.

Today, if asked about experimental fiction and which writers have most influenced my work, I would excitedly say: Oh yes, I follow in the ever-so-fresh, shiny-new traditions laid out by such inspiring writers before me who've done such groundbreaking work . . . 

. . . like, for instance, Homer, reteller of retellers and breaker of frames . . . 

. . . and certainly that cutting edge author of The Book of Job, whose fairy tale prose frame outside time and place is situated around some 40 chapters-in-verse / speeches / monologues . . . 

. . . Sappho, who reappropriated Homer's "rosy-fingered dawn" and rewrote it "rosy-fingered moon," turning day into night and turning the world upside-down, and whose mortal speaker (as Philip Freeman points out in Searching for Sappho), unlike Homer's mortals, does not tremble in the presence of gods but is chided, gently, by Aphrodite who teases, Really Sappho? Again? Who are you in love with this time? (while, you know, not failing the Bechdel test) . . . 

. . . oh, and that tricky fellow Boccaccio, whose historiographic metafiction blends present with storied past, "fictional" and "characters" (aka RPF), and whose storytellers exist between city walls and country garden walls, between medieval and early modern times, between horror, courtly love, soft core porn, satire, and whatever other genres you can come up with, etc.

I could go on and on.

Shakespeare, the new Homer! Marlowe, the new Ovid! Jonson, who'd undoubtedly send Aristotle back to his writing room to rethink Poetics (would Jonson have liked Sharknado 2? I wonder). Walton's absent sister / reader, the female creature's almost-body violently destroyed in the making, dead bridewife. Dead wives in 1,001 Nights, in bloody chambers, in the forests, in the cities, in the suburbs. Invisible. Citizens.

HTF do we not rewrite the past when the tools and tricks and politics are old as time and ink. When I've mentioned here only perhaps 1/20th of the texts on my exam lists, which are like 1/zillions of all texts ever written.

What's new?

Idk.

Not already rewritten?

Idk.

Contemporary?

Idk.