Bruce Louden's bold re-reading of the Odyssey—the first attempt in years to map in detail the poem's overall structure—offers new insights into the artistry of Odysseus' mythic voyage and enriches our understanding of Homer's masterful craftsmanship. Louden's groundbreaking work uncovers an extended narrative pattern, repeated in full three times, which reveals the poem's underlying skeletal structure. This organizational analysis helps to explain the existence of several characters or episodes sometimes dismissed as extraneous, as late additions, or even as corruptions to Homer's original intent. In addition, Louden's discovery strengthens the suggestion that the Odyssey was the product of oral tradition. By repeating this sequence of successive motifs, a single, improvising bard could explore a variety of complex ideas within a poem as long as the Odyssey.
Though centrally concerned with the form of Homer's rich and complex plot, Louden's study is not exclusively, or even primarily, formalistic. His investigation involves the study of characters' names, challenges faced by Odysseus, the structure of the poem, and roles assigned to the poem's female characters. Louden's comprehensive achievement gives the reader a fresh perspective on the role of divine hostility and the artistry of an epic survivor on his timeless journey home.
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