Objects and actions: The bed of Odysseus (Odyssey 23, 183-204) as ekphrasis
Amsterdam Classics Seminar by Prof. Ruth Webb (Université de Lille)
Odysseus’ account of the making of his bed in Odyssey23 is the culminating moment of his reintegration, leading as it does to his acceptance by Penelope after her final test of the stranger’s identity. I will examine this much discussed passage as an example of a particular type of ekphrasis, that of the way (tropos) in which something is done or made, a category which encourages us to place as much emphasis on the actions of the maker as on the resulting object. Doing so, and consequently taking account of the embodied knowledge that such ekphraseis encode, can provide extra insight into the passage and into the reasons why the account of the bed serves as such an effective proof of Odysseus’ identity.
Ruth Webb is Professor of Greek at the Université Lille 3. She has published on Imperial Greek rhetoric, on the interface between image and text, and on the theatre and performance in Late Antiquity. Her main publications are Demons and Dancers: Performance in Late Antiquity (Cambridge MA, 2008) and Ekphrasis, Imagination and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Practice (Franham, 2009).
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