Instructions How to Write

Odyssey-Homer-Emily Wilson Translation

In answering one of the questions below on The Odyssey, focus on specific examples from the text, and be sure to support your argument with quotations. In citing these passages, explain both what they mean and address the language of the passage. That is, give your interpretation of the citations. This is the main task of an academic essay of literary analysis. You need to discuss both what is written and how it is written, and how these relate. You can focus on word choice, connotations, figurative language (metaphor, simile), imagery, tone, characterization, the scene, plot placement, etc...


1. Metamorphosis in the original Greek means, roughly, “after a certain form”. (Meta meaning after and Morphe meaning form) To us, a metamorphosis indicates a change or transformation.
In The Odyssey, there are countless transformations both physical and metaphysical that occur.
What is the importance of metamorphosis for this text? What are the ways in which changes (supernatural, emotional, or physical) are crucial? Examine the theme of transformation and moments of transformation through close reading.

2. Hospitality is a central theme in The Odyssey. This practice of hosting a guest involves an ethic (xenia) towards the stranger or the other. Yet, there are many moments when we find hospitality as paradoxical: the openness towards the stranger or other is replaced by violence. Examine several examples where we find the paradoxical or contradictory character of hospitality combined with violence. How do the conventions governing hospitality come into conflict with the reasons for violence? According to the text, how can we reconcile the relationship between the requirements of hospitality and the violence that happens between hosts and guests, the familiar and the foreign?

3. The world in Homer’s The Odyssey can be thought of as in the shadow of the Trojan War: characters discussing the glories of combat and mourning their fallen friends and family. In this way, Odysseus inhabits a world transitioning from the values and logics of the battlefield, to a time of peace. Focusing on several examples, how do we see this transition from war-time to peace-time? What are the looming effects of war on the characters?

Example of textual citation:

Odysseus’ skill at sailing highlights the tragic delay in returning home. “Odysseus’ heart sang as he spread sail to the wind, /[…], a master mariner / aboard his craft.” (Homer 5.269-271, p. 391). He is a “master” (Homer 5.270, p. 391), following the constellations to sail home, but there are forces outside of his control that impede his journey.

Work Cited

Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Norton Anthology of World Literature, 3rd edition, edited by Martin Puchner. Norton, 2012, pp. 332-622.

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