The Portrayal of Women in Homer's Odyssey Essay

The Portrayal of Women in Homer's Odyssey Essay

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Does Homer exhibit gender bias in the Odyssey?  Is the nature of woman as depicted in the Odyssey in any way revealing? Upon examining the text of the Odyssey for differential treatment on men and women, it becomes necessary to distinguish between three possible conclusions.  One, differences in treatment reflect the underlying Homeric thesis that  women are "different but equal in nature,"  Two, different treatment  of men and women in the text reflect a thesis that women are "different and unequal in nature" -- arguments about misogyny fall in here but a host of other interpretive possibilities are possible too. Three, the different treatment reflects simple ignorance. How much do we attribute what we discover to male authorship -- or female authorship?

In beginning, we might look to the gods for a clue. The adultery between Ares and Aphrodite for example is evenly represented -- both parties are to blame -- both are shamed -- both are banished. Although there is some "locker room talk" between two of the male gods that they would willingly lie in chains several layers thick to be beside Aphrodite. 

Sexuality among mortals is another key to this poem and this question. Women and men are represented differentially in this regard -- The herdsman Eumaios -- Odysseus brother by "adoption" recounts how he came to Ithaka a captive of a slave woman Phoinikia -- a woman who had been seduced by a roving seafarer w...


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.... 17-27.

Griffin, Jasper. Homer on Life and Death, 1980, Clarendon Press.

Richard Brilliant, "Kirke's Men: Swine and Sweethearts," pp. 165-73.

Helene Foley, "Penelope as Moral Agent," in Beth Cohen, ed., The Distaff Side (Oxford 1995), pp. 93-115.

Jennifer Neils, "Les Femmes Fatales: Skylla and the Sirens in Greek Art," pp. 175-84.

Lillian Doherty, Siren Songs: Gender, Audiences, and Narrators in the Odyssey (Ann Arbor 1995), esp. chapter 1.

Mary Lefkowitz, "Seduction and Rape in Greek Myth," 17-37.

Marilyn Arthur Katz, Penelope's Renown: Meaning and Indeterminacy in the Odyssey (Princeton 1991).

Nancy Felson-Rubin, Regarding Penelope: From Courtship to Poetics (Princeton 1994).

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