Replenishing the Odyssey: Margaret Atwood’s and John Barth’s Postmodern Epics
Keywords:Margaret Atwood, John Barth, postmodernism, mythology, Odyssey
The paper focuses on Margaret Atwood’s novel The Penelopiad and John Barth’s short stories “Menelaiad” and “Anonymiad,” comparing the approaches of the two authors in their postmodernist retellings of Homer’s Odyssey. Both Atwood and Barth base their narratives on minor episodes from this epic, with its less prominent or unnamed characters assuming the roles of the narrators. Using different postmodernist techniques, the authors experiment with the form and content of the narration, combine different genres, and demythologize the situations and characters. In their re-evaluations and reinterpretations of the Odyssey, they create works which epitomize Barth’s notion of postmodernist fiction as a literature of replenishment. The comparative analysis presented in this paper aims to highlight the ways in which Atwood and Barth challenge the old and add new perspectives on Homer’s epic, at the same time confirming its relevance in the postmodern context.
Atwood, Margaret. 2006. The Penelopiad. Edinburgh, London: Canongate.
Barth, John. 1984. The Friday Book: Essays and Other Non-Fiction. London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
—. 1988. Lost in the Funhouse. New York: Anchor Books.
Davies, Madeleine. 2006. “Margaret Atwood’s Female Bodies.” In The Cambridge Companion to Margaret Atwood, edited by Coral Ann Howells, 58–71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dell’abate-Çelebi, Barbara. 2016. Penelope’s Daughters. Lincoln, Nebraska: Zea Books.
González, Cristina Garrigós. 2000. “Speaking of Myth. An Interview with John Barth.” REDEN. Revista Española de Estudios Norteamericanos 19–20: 201–8.
Homer. 1996. The Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Viking.
Hutcheon, Linda. 2004. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York, London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
Hyde, Lewis. 1998. Trickster Makes This World. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Jung, Susanne. 2014/2015. “‘A Chorus Line’: Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad at the Crossroads of Narrative, Poetic and Dramatic Genres.” Connotations 24 (1): 41–62.
Marlowe, Christopher. (1604) 1967. Doctor Faustus. Edited by Roma Gill. London: Ernest Benn.
Nicol, Bran. 2009. The Cambridge Introduction to Postmodern Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rosen, Jeremy. 2016. Minor Characters Have Their Day: Genre and the Contemporary Literary Marketplace. New York: Columbia University Press.
Suzuki, Mihoko. 1989. Metamorphoses of Helen: Authority, Difference, and the Epic. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.
Tonkin, Boyd. 2005. “Margaret Atwood: A personal odyssey and how she rewrote Homer.” Independent, October 28, 2005. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/margaret-atwood-a-personal-odyssey-and-how-she-rewrote-homer-322675.html.
Vautier, Marie. 1998. New World Myth: Postmodernism and Postcolonialism in Canadian Fiction. Montreal & Kingston, London, Buffalo: McGill-Queen’s University Press.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2020 Bojana Aćamović
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors are confirming that they are the authors of the submitting article, which will be published (print and online) in journal ELOPE by Znanstvena založba Filozofske fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani (University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Aškerčeva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia). Author’s name will be evident in the article in journal. All decisions regarding layout and distribution of the work are in hands of the publisher.
- Authors guarantee that the work is their own original creation and does not infringe any statutory or common-law copyright or any proprietary right of any third party. In case of claims by third parties, authors commit their self to defend the interests of the publisher, and shall cover any potential costs.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.