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20090903-930 The Odyssey, Books 17-20 (Group 3)

Page history last edited by dsorens@... 11 years, 9 months ago


Thursday's lecture began with a discussion of several familiar concepts from previous classes, including irony, epic conventions, and Ancient Greek culture as observed through xenia.  The epic conventions employed by Homer include the use of similes, repetition, digression, magic, speeches, and epithets.  During our discussion of irony we focused more on situational irony than in the previous lectures.  The class also had a more in-depth discussion looking at Odysseus as a hero, coming up with several characteristics such as being brave, strong, crafty, respectful, wise, and persistent. These characteristics are also consistent with the concept of metis, of which Athena, the goddess of craft and wisdom is closely associated.  Metis, interpreted in English as "craftiness," seems to be a recurring act throughout the poem.  Odysseus is continuously using metis as a means to escape the gravest situations including saving himself from the Cyclops and not telling his men about sailing past Scylla.  One way in which we observed the Ancient Greek culture in books 17-20 was through xenia, the respect between host and guest regardless either party's stature.  We also discussed how Odysseus plays the role of the guest in his own home and is treated poorly by the suitors.  Another topic discussed in the lecture was that of fate.  It seems that many prophecies are coming true, including Odysseus returning a broken man to his swift, raptor-like annihilation of the suitors.  We discussed how Athena seems to keep urging on the insolent suitors, which angers Odysseus even more, and helps seal their unfortunate fates by encouraging Odysseus to pursue his plans to kill the suitors.  Several reasons were brought up for this spurning on including the suitors' violation of xenia, allowing their deaths to become just in the reader's eyes. (291 words)


Key Terms

  • Metis-translated from Greek, this term means "craftiness."
    • Used as a form of advantage rather than entertainment.
  • Metis-also means council or plan, and can be used to apply to intelligence, technical skills, and wisdom.
  • Polymetis-much metis
    • Used to describe Odysseus throughout the text



Quotations/Passages on Metis

Page 430, Odysseus doesn't want to be recognized:


"Ithaca...Heart racing, Odysseus that great exile

filled with joy to hear Athena, daughter of storming Zeus,

pronounce that name.  He stood on native ground at last

and he replied with a winging word to Pallas,

not with a word of truth-he chocked it back,

always invoking the cunning in his heart:"


"As his story ended,

goddess Athena, gray eyes gleaming, broke into a smile

and stroked him with her hand, and now she appeared a woman,"


Athena is continually using the skill of metis by disguising people or places and is extremely happy to discover Odysseus's use of her tactic when he is telling her of the Phoenicians dropping him in a land he did not recognize.   


Penelope also shows her metis in Book XIX, lines 152-176:

"A god form the blue it was inspired me first

to set up a great loom in our royal halls

and I began to weave, and the weaving finespun,

the yarns endless, and I would lead them on: 'Young men,

my suitors, now that King Odysseus is no more,

go slowly , keen as you are to marry me, until

I can finish off this web..."

"so by day I'd weave at my great and growing web-

by night, by the light of torches set beside me,

I would unravel all I'd done."


Penelope tells how she stalled the suitors attempts to sweep her off in marriage by saying she would not marry until she had finished Laertes death shroud.  Craftily, she wove the shroud by day, and at night unraveled everything she had done.  Penelope's craftiness aids in showing that she truely is a deserving wife of Odysseus, and remains true and loyal to him.


Quotations/Passages on Irony

On page 504 there is an example of dramatic irony when Penelope is speaking to the beggar who is actually Odysseus.

"'If only, my friend,' reserved Penelope exclaimed,

'everything you say would come to pass!

You'd soon know my affection, know my gifts.

Any man you meet would call you blest.

But my heart can sense the way it all will go.

Odysseus, I tell you, is never coming back,

nor will you ever gain your passage home,

for we have no masters in our house like him

at welcoming in or sending off an honored guest."


Much of the dramatic irony in this section of reading follows this format.  There is a person talking to Odysseus without knowing it is him.  Often, the unbeknownest people say that Odysseus is never coming back, when in-fact, he is sitting right in front of them.  There is also an example of situational irony in this passage, in that Penelope states that "we have no masters in our house like him," when in fact Odysseus is right in front of her.

Comments (10)

dsorens@... said

at 1:29 pm on Sep 3, 2009


Brian Croxall said

at 1:02 pm on Sep 12, 2009

For the first crack at writing notes for the class, you've done a pretty good job. You've pulled out the key points from our discussion throughout the different sections of the notes. I think, however, that they can be made more clear.

For instance, in the summary you put the notes in a different order than what we discussed things. That's not the end of the world, but it makes them harder to follow. You begin by covering the principle things we've been looking for in the Odyssey, and you then explain epic conventions and irony. (Since these were just quick reviews, they didn't necessarily need to be fleshed out as they are. But as they are so important to what we're doing, it's not bad that you did.) You then move on to metis. But after that you back pedal toward xenia and culture, which are things that you mentioned in the first sentence. Strive for more logical organization of the summary. And please include a word count following the summary paragraph(s).

For the terms, please follow my example notes and just give the new terms using bullet points. Your definition is very straightforward and clear although you could have made "polymetis" a second term.

Brian Croxall said

at 1:02 pm on Sep 12, 2009

The biggest problem comes with the passages. In the first place, you have too many. In every day of class we will read well more than 3 passages from the text, but you are limited to three. You will have to work collectively to determine which are the most important and which you will include. Frequently this means picking passages that cover 3 different concepts, just so all the main points of the class get represented. Another approach is to use the passages to talk about portions of the class that you didn't have time to cover in the summary. You should strive to cover things well rather than cover them completely. In addition to having too many passages, you have not written them all out. Don't just give us page numbers: copy the text and put it here on the wiki. Finally, each passage needs to have an explanation. The two passages under irony have explanations (although they could be expanded a bit), but the ones under the heading of metis lack them entirely.

Justin Miller said

at 4:50 pm on Sep 12, 2009

okay guys what passages do you think are the most important? i think we should keep maybe one of the passages on irony, and then have two passages on metis. we should take the one about penelope out i think and focus more on odysseus.

Aaron Tourtellot said

at 5:03 pm on Sep 12, 2009

I believe we should have 2 passages on metis and a little bit of the discussion on the hero/jerk situation.

Aaron Tourtellot said

at 5:04 pm on Sep 12, 2009

whoops wrong group

dsorens@... said

at 6:25 pm on Sep 15, 2009

I just edited the page according to what Prof. Croxall said; I think each part should be alright now. Any other thoughts?

Rose said

at 9:18 pm on Sep 15, 2009

i think that it looks pretty good, do we have the order correct in the summary?

Justin Miller said

at 5:58 pm on Sep 16, 2009

i don't know if the order is correct. we talked about xenia in the beginning of the summary, then we went on to talk about some other stuff, then we went back to explaining xenia more. It seems like everything on xenia should all be together.

Brian Croxall said

at 12:35 pm on Sep 19, 2009

I've just looked at your revised notes. There have been some real improvements made, especially the passages. You now have the right number and they have good explanations for them. These are some of the more important passages from the day's discussion. The terms are also formatted in a more effective way, although I'm not sure why you have two lines to the definition of metis.

Your summary, on the other hand, has had minimal changes made to it, and it's still not organized in an especially effective manner. For the summary it's worth bearing in mind that what you want to do is to include the main points of what we discuss in class (there are normally 2-3 per class). Once you've isolated these points, you should organize your summary by them. Rather than one big paragraph and rather than writing your notes based on the order in which we talk about things during the actual class period, use one paragraph per main point.

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