The language of the gods : oblique communication and divine persuasion in Homer's Odyssey
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Often praised for its sophistication in the narrator- and character-text, the Odyssey is regarded as the ultimate epic of a warrior’s much-troubled nostos. As a corollary of both its theme and the polytropia of the main hero, the poem explores extensively the motifs of secrecy and disguise. Apart from the lying tales of Odysseus, one important, albeit less obvious, example of the tendency to secrecy and disguise is the exchanges between the gods, which constitute a distinct group of speeches that have significant implications for the action of the poem. The aim of this dissertation is to study the divine dialogues of the Odyssey from the angle of communication and persuasion. Employing findings from narratology, discourse analysis, and oral poetics, and through close readings of the Homeric text, I argue that the overwhelming majority of these related passages have certain characteristics, whose common denominator is obliqueness. Apart from Helius’ appeal to Zeus (Chapter 2), distinctive in its own narratorial rendition, the rest of the dialogues, namely Hermes’ message-delivery to Calypso (Prologue), the two divine assemblies (Chapter 1), plus the exchanges of Zeus with Poseidon (Chapter 2) and Athena (Epilogue) conform to set patterns of communication. Within this framework, interlocutors strongly tend towards concealment and partiality. They make extensive use of conversational implicatures, shed light only on certain sides of the story while suppressing others, and present feigned or even exaggerated arguments in order to persuade their addressee. Direct confrontation is in principle avoided, and even when it does occur, it takes a rather oblique form. In this communicative scheme, the procedure of decision-making is not clear-cut, and the concept of persuasion is fluid and hidden behind the indirect and subtle dialogic process.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Embargo Date: 2024-12-18
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic version restricted until 18th December 2024
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