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February 03 , 2008

Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey


Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey reveals the significance of the Odyssey's plot, in particular the many scenes of recognition that make up the hero's homecoming and dramatize the cardinal values of Homeric society, an aristocratic culture organized around recognition in the broader senses of honor, privilege, status, and fame. Odysseus' identity is seen to be rooted in his family relations, geographical origins, control of property, participation in the social institutions of hospitality and marriage, past actions, and ongoing reputation. At the same time, Odysseus' dependence on the acknowledgement of others ensures attention to multiple viewpoints, which makes the Odyssey more than a simple celebration of one man's preeminence and accounts in part for the poem's vigorous afterlife. The theme of disguise, which relies on plausible lies, highlights the nature of belief and the power of falsehood and creates the mixture of realism and fantasy that gives the Odyssey its distinctive texture. The book contains a pioneering analysis of the role of Penelope and the questions of female agency and human limitation raised by the critical debate about when exactly she recognizes that Odysseus has come home.
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