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  • 1 University of Kansas Department of English Lawrence KS 66044 USA
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Abstract  

Although nature looms large throughout Homer’s Odyssey, literary critics have entirely neglected to discuss his construction of the natural world in this foundational Western work. This neglect might be the result of two factors: the blurred line between geographical and fantastical locales in Odysseus’ travels and the blurred line between natural forces and deities. This essay recognizes that Homer not only reconstructs the Mediterranean world in his epic through detailed references to weather, geology, plants, birds, and animals but also that his similes suggest a consciousness of inter-species relationships. Principally, however, this essay argues, as does William Cronon, that “relationships, processes, and systems are as ecological as they are cultural,” and that Odysseus’ response to nature may usefully be understood in relation to three ecocritical models: the anthropocentric or domination model, the stewardship model, and the biomorphic model. His exploitative and aggressive behavior toward the Cyclopes, Circe, and the cattle of the Sun is contrasted with his recognition upon his homecoming of his own animal nature and his appreciation of the agrarian and pastoral life. While the tradition of writing in The Odyssey genre has vigorously continued in Western literature, only recently have contemporary environmental writers moved toward a recognition of the threat of the anthropocentric perspective to the imperative of working toward the stewardship and biomorphic models.

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