Tuesday, 5 March 2019

port-of-call

In a delightful piece for Lapham’s Quarterly—which comes to us via Coudal Partners’ Fresh LinksElizabeth Della Zazzera ponders that: “The Odyssey, if you strip away enough allegory and myth, might serve as a travel guide for the Ægean Sea: which islands to avoid if you hate escape rooms, which cruise to skip of you always forget to pack earplugs, where to get that beef that angers the gods. But how does Odysseus’ trek across the wine-dark sea map onto an actual map of the Mediterranean?”
As much as scholars might debate the merits of trying to map a myth, the places mentioned along our hero’s circuitous route for all their fantastic inhabitants and the weight of allegory and iconography are real and readily identifiable. Though an abundance of wholly serious academics have undertaken the task of creating gazetteers (long before Troy was rediscovered as a real place and not some Homeric conceit) and more recently cruises commissioned only semi-cynically for the literary criticism crowd that trace Odysseus’ odyssey and journey home exist to attest to the allure of charting a narrative, one has to wonder what one misses with interpretations and readings that adhere too closely to the text and correspondence to places one can visit.