Lorina Quartarone Department of Modern & Classical Languages, The University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, MN, USA

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By presenting Penelope's experiences and traits as parallel to those of Odysseus, the text of the Odyssey depicts her as heroic in her own right. This detailed analysis of Penelope's life in the palace on Ithaca – depicted as an Underworld-like realm of suspension – shows how similar her experiences, traits, actions and reactions are to her husband's; the text furnishes multiple similes and epithets that demonstrate these parallels. The suspension of progress on Ithaca during the suitors' presence, in addition to Penelope's and others' declarations that Odysseus is dead, instills the palace with an atmosphere of death; in effect, this represents Penelope's katabasis. When she converses with her “dead” husband, she learns in this nekyia – as Odysseus learns during his – what she needs to know to move forward. This article offers an in-depth look at the language, similes, and epithets that portray Penelope's life and experiences in the palace as well as her crucial encounter with Odysseus in book 19, where the suspension and liminality reach their peak.

  • Amory, A.R. (1957). Omens and dreams in the ‘Odyssey’: a Study of the Relation between Divine and Human Action. Harvard PhD thesis, microfilm. Cambridge, MA.

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  • Amory, A.R. (1966). The Gates of Horn and Ivory. Yale Classical Studies, 20: 357.

  • Amory, A.R. (1963). The Reunion of Odysseus and Penelope. In: Taylor, Ch.H. (ed.), Essays on the Odyssey. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp. 100121.

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  • Atwood, M. (2005). The Penelopiad. Canongate, New York.

  • Austin, N. (1975). Archery at the Dark of the Moon: Poetic Problems in Homer’s Odyssey. University of California Press, Berkeley.

  • Bonifazi, A. (2009). Inquiring into Nostos and its Cognates. The American Journal of Philology, 130(4): 481510.

  • Detienne, M.Vernant, J.-P. (1978). Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society. Transl. from the French by J. Lloyd. Humanties, Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

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  • Eliade, M. (1963). Patterns in Comparative Religion. Transl. by R. Sheed. World, Cleveland.

  • Felson-Rubin, N. (1994). Regarding Penelope: From Character to Poetics. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

  • Fletcher, J. (2019). Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

  • Foley, H. (1984). ‘Reverse Similes’ and Sex Roles in the Odyssey. In: Peradotto, J.Sullivan, J.P. (eds.), Women in the Ancient World: The Arethusa Papers. State University of New York Press, Albany, pp. 5978.

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  • Frame, D. (1978). The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic. Yale University Press, New Haven – London.

  • Haller, B. (2009). Gates of Horn and Ivory in Odyssey 19: Penelope’s Call for Deeds, Not Words. Classical Philology, 104(4): 397417.

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  • Harsh, Ph. (1950). Penelope and Odysseus in Odyssey XIX. The American Journal of Philology, 71 (1): 121.

  • Heitman, R. (2005). Taking Her Seriously: Penelope and the Plot of Homer’s Odyssey. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

  • Katz Anhalt, E. (2001–2002). A Matter of Perspective: Penelope and the Nightingale in Odyssey 19.512-534. Classical Journal, 97(2): 145159.

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  • Katz, M. (1987). Penelope’s Renown: Meaning and Indeterminacy in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

  • Loraux, N. (1989). Tirésias: Les expériences de Tirésias. Gallimard, Paris.

  • Morrison, J.V. (2005). “Similes for Odysseus and Penelope: Mortality, Divinity, Identity.” In: Rabel, R.J.Burgess, J.S. (eds.), Approaches to Homer – Ancient and Modern. The Classical Press of Wales, Swansea, pp. 7389.

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  • Papadopoulou-Belmehdi, I. (1994). Le chant de Pénélope. Belin, Paris.

  • Peradotto, J. (1990). Man in the Middle Voice: Name and Narration in the “Odyssey”. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

  • Pucci, P. (1987). Odysseus Polutropos: Intertextual Readings in the Odyssey and the Iliad. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

  • Quartarone, L.N. (2023). Odysseus, Circe, and the Italian Tradition of National Descent. In: Dova, St.Callaway, C.Gazis, G.A. (eds.), Homer in Sicily. Essays from Fonte Aretusa’s 2022 Symposium in Siracusa. Parnassos Press, Fonte Aretusa, pp. 227250.

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  • Reece, St. (2011). Penelope’s ‘Early Recognition’ of Odysseus from a Neoanalytic and Oral Perspective. College Literature, 38(2): 101117.

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  • Strauss Clay, J. (1983). The Wrath of Athena. Gods and Men in the Odyssey. Princeton University Press, Boston.

  • Van Nortwick, Th. (1996). Somewhere I Have Never Travelled. Oxford University Press, New York.

  • Vlahos, J. (2007). Homer’s Odyssey, Books 19 and 23: Early Recognition; A Solution to the Enigmas of Ivory and Horns, and the Test of the Bed. College Literature, 34: 107131.

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  • Winkler, J. (1990). The Constraints of Desire. The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece. Routledge, London – New York, esp. chapter “Penelope’s Cunning and Homer’s”, pp. 129161.

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