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The Return of Ulysses, by Edith Hall

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The Return of Ulysses, by Edith Hall

The Return of Ulysses, by Edith Hall


The Bottom Line

One of the main points of The Return of Ulysses is that Homer's Odyssey has had such an enormous impact on us that we've been influenced by him if we ever went to school, watched television, went to the movies, or read.

If you'd like to take a look at the The Odyssey's two and half millennia of influence or want to know more about the western cultural legacy, you should read Edith Hall's drily witty The Return of Ulysses. The more reading you've done, the more you'll be able to enjoy her catalogue. Young people without many literary works under their belts will not appreciate it as well.

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  • You don't need to be a classicist to appreciate
  • Thorough
  • Witty


  • Unfamiliar references


  • Divided into 15 chapters in 3 sections: Genetic Mutations, World and Society, and Mind and Psyche.
  • The 1st section introduces, discusses translation, the variety of dramatic forms used to show The Odyssey, and its songs.
  • The 2nd section covers the social and sociological aspects of the legacy of The Odyssey.
  • The 3rd section covers the psychological aspects ofThe Odyssey, including violence and sexuality.

Guide Review - The Return of Ulysses, by Edith Hall

Edith Hall surveys the impact of The Odyssey on world culture. She is not the first, but The Return of Ulysses is, nonetheless, something new and different. Hall focuses more on the work of literature (The Odyssey) than the cultural hero (Odysseus/Ulysses). She restricts her survey to those aspects of art she knows best -- mostly literary, while limiting her exploration of the plastic arts and crank theories. In addition, writing in the 21st century, her perspective is tempered by modern themes.

Particularly important to Hall's analysis is feminism. In reading The Odyssey, one of the questions raised is "what is going on with Penelope?" The question has many facets, for instance: Did she recognize her husband? Was she really faithful or sexually frustrated? Was she sad that she'd wasted her youthful good looks? Such questions as these have led to many literary explorations, which Hall describes. Other questions involve Helen of Troy and Nausicaa, whose stories are tantalizingly left dangling, waiting for modern writers to plumb.

Hall examines how The Odyssey has been re-interpreted by the Civil Rights movement. She shows that the changing attitude towards the world's superpowers is reflected in modern stories featuring Polyphemus the Cyclops as the good guy. Two aspects that most interested me were Hall's tracing the genre of science fiction to The Odyssey and her point that the U.S. comfort level with lots of blood and gore, coupled with prurient prudishness can also be seen in Homer.

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