The Meaning of Meat and the Structure of the Odyssey

The Meaning of Meat and the Structure of the Odyssey


By (author) Egbert J. Bakker

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  • Format: Hardback | 206 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 232mm x 18mm | 420g
  • Publication date: 20 May 2013
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 052111120X
  • ISBN 13: 9780521111201
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Illustrations note: 6 tables
  • Sales rank: 1,063,203

Product description

This comprehensive study of the Odyssey sees in meat and meat consumption a centre of gravitation for the interpretation of the poem. It aims to place the cultural practices represented in the poem against the background of the (agricultural) lived reality of the poem's audiences in the archaic age, and to align the themes of the adventures in Odysseus' wanderings with the events that transpire at Ithaca in the hero's absence. The criminal meat consumption of the suitors of Penelope in the civilised space of Ithaca is shown to resonate with the adventures of Odysseus and his companions in the pre-cultural worlds they are forced to visit. The book draws on folklore studies, the anthropology of hunting cultures, the comparative study of oral traditions, and the agricultural history of archaic and classical Greece. It will also be of interest to narratologists and students of folklore and Homeric poetics.

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Author information

Egbert J. Bakker is Professor of Classics at Yale University. Within the wider area of the interaction between linguistic analysis and literary interpretation he works mainly on the language, poetics and interpretation of the Homeric poems. He has lectured and published widely on both linguistic and literary subjects. Among his publications are Linguistics and Formulas in Homer (1988), Poetry in Speech: Orality and Homeric Discourse (1997) and Pointing at the Past: From Formula to Performance in Homeric Poetics (2005). He has co-edited Brill's Companion to Herodotus (2002) and is the editor of A Companion to the Ancient Greek Language (2010).

Review quote

'A powerful illustration of the importance of food and culinary practices to understanding past societies.' The Times Literary Supplement 'This is a wonderful book ... it manages to use the matrix of sacrifice, feasting, division of meat and consumption as a lens through which to examine the entire complex range of ideas and values that constitute the world of epic ... It is succinct, detailed and successfully articulates a view of the poems that blends the best of the oral tradition and the literary ... All in all, a splendid book and a significant contribution to our understanding of the poems Bakker admirably describes as 'unique and best'.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review '... a highly engaging study on the symbolic value and religious importance of meat in the Odyssey ... an enjoyable, useful and important addition to the vast field of Homeric studies.' D. Felton, The Classical Review

Table of contents

Prologue: food for song; 1. Epos and aoide; 2. Nostos as quest; 3. Meat in myth and life; 4. Unlimited goats and counted sheep; 5. Feasting in the land of the dawn; 6. The revenge of the sun; 7. The justice of Poseidon; 8. Remembering the gaster; Epilogue: on 'interformularity'.