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But absence and the thoughtfulness it engenders are of course nothing new. Already in Book 1, when she hears the bard singing to her suitors about how other soldiers have returned from Troy, she begs him to stop:.

The Odyssey of Homer, by Translated by Alexander Pope : INTRODUCTION

By studying their dreams, their dead, and their divinities—all moments when the mind focuses on an absent other—we can better frame this absence, this almost-ness. But why do I want to peer into this absence? Dean of the Faculty Patrick McDougal is right about my not being a student of Western humanities, and the faculty may be a bit confused and horrified to see me standing here. Their dreams We start with their dreams.

There was a man, or was he all a dream? Goddesses and dreams.

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Their dead In fact, the underworld is where we really begin to see memory-for-the-absent-other evoking the dead. Here we finally shift away from that empty household in Ithaca to meet Odysseus himself as Circe advises him to visit the underworld to learn how to get home. In Book 10 Circe advises a ritualized remembrance:.

And of course Odysseus does just that when he reaches the Underworld in the next book. Sword in hand, he poises himself over a trench to spill the blood of that ram and ewe in one of the most colorful passages of the Odyssey :. Thus if it was remembered, its existence was prolonged. Remembering is performative; remembering does something to the absent. He says in Book They in fact started out as humans with extreme talents, were worshipped in life for their talents, and that worship continued after their deaths. They were remembered, and so they became gods. So perhaps we here have hints of euhemerism in Homer, and not just once.

So in their dreams, the goddesses come; in their memories, the dead find their existence prolonged; in their prayers, the divinities take shape. In all three situations, the cogitations of the living seem to contribute to the presence of absent others. Not absence; not presence; almost-ness. Weird stuff. At least not to me. Let me translate just a snippet of that poem:.


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Thus engulfed in thoughtful anguish, he fails to see his lost love. Or does he? His last words admit to uncertainty, to the almost-ness of Telemachus. In his intense contemplation he perhaps conceives of her faint presence in the distance. Do his intense, far-roaming thoughts ultimately reach her?

For example, it was a given that the ancestral spirits could visit us in our dreams just as Athena could visit Penelope in hers. Sometimes they might give advice or let you in on the big picture, but usually they just wanted more animal sacrifices. Anglo-America in the Transatlantic World. Animals, History, Culture.

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