Odyssey, Books IX-XII, and Narrative Voice

         We are approaching another major shift in the epic's narrative strategy, not unlike that between the opening four books (the "Telemachiad") and the next four that got Odysseys from Kalypso's island to Phaikia.  In Books IX-XII (another four-"book" group--only a coincidence?), our narrator becomes Odysseus, not the omniscient voice who could visit Olympus and eavesdrop on the gods, but the mortal hero with agendas of his own for narrating tales to his hosts.  Based on the kinds of tales he tells, what might we infer about the state of Odysseus' mind, his memories of the long war and his wanderings to this point?  Alcinous specifically raises the issue of narrators who tell outrageous tales to impress their hearers, another emergence of the "mythos vs. myth" problem.  How should we understand the tales Odysseus tells the court?  A midterm paper might well look for narrative features in Books IX-XII that do not occur in Books I-VIII to build an argument about just that kind of critical insight.  It also might be an interesting impromptu essay to discover on a midterm exam.

     For another narrator-tale-quality division of the epic into three units of "realistic," "fantastic," and "realistic" (I-V, VI-XVII, XVIII-XXIV), see

Segal, Charles Paul.  "The Phaeacians and the Symbolism of Odysseus' Return."  Arion 1:4 (Winter 1962): 17-64.  Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20162806.