Friday, August 22, 2014

The Authoress of the Odyssey

Samuel Butler - The authoress of the Odyssey, where and when she wrote, who she was, the use she made of the Iliad, and how the poem grew under her hands (1897)

Open Library direct link
Open Library main page

Late in the 19th century novelist Samuel Butler (Erewhon, The Way of All Flesh) promoted the idea that whoever wrote The Odyssey (and not as often reported about his claim Homer in full) had actually been a woman.  In 1897 he released this book to sway the unbelievers, most of whom declined to sway.  Mary Beard calls it a "zany argument" and since I haven't yet read it that's probably the best place to leave this.  Beard wrote a full essay on the book in the collection Samuel Butler, Victorian Against the Grain: A Critical Overview that's likely more interesting than the actual book. In his notebooks Butler claimed of The Odyssey "If the poem is to ever be well translated, it must be by some high-spirited English girl who has been brought up at Athens and who, therefore, has not been jaded by academic study of the language." By those standards we'll have to make do with un-well-translated poems though Butler himself gave a stab at it.  (There's a Delphi Classics ebook that includes his and several other translations in full along with numerous Homerian oddities.)