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Navigating Female Power: (De-) Constructing the Space of the Immortal Threat in Homer’s Odyssey
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, History of Religions.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this study is to locate spatial manifestations of power, and acts of agency, by conducting a subversive reading of the female immortal threats in Homer’s Odyssey. With an aim to question preconceived notions on sexuality, gender and power, I draw on the theoretical perspectives of gender theorists J. Butler and J. Halberstam in my reading of non-normative female displays of power. The material in question is the adventures in the Odyssey that present female immortals, functioning as antagonists in the epos’ narrative structure. Space and power make the foundation in the deconstruction of these adventures. I approach the subject using analytical tools from the spatial methodology of K. Knott. Starting with ‘location’ I apply analytical categories such as ‘physical space’, ‘social space’, ‘properties of space’ and ‘spatial aspects’ in order to critically analyze spatial manifestations of power in each adventure.

By placing the female immortal in the subject position, this work shows how she utilizes her space in order to dominate the mortal man she encounters. This is conducted through non-normative acts such as isolation and restriction. The study highlights the problem of putting ‘sex’ as the only, or dominant, focus in the reading of these adventures. The female immortals that Odysseus encounters, can by spatial analysis be shown to act autonomously towards mortal intruders that enter their territory.  They present themselves as having the right to take a mortal man for a husband, as well as kill him or keep him as a prisoner. This suggests that their status as immortal exceeds Odysseus’ male gender, whilst still being restricted by the gender hierarchy of her immortal society. The spatial analysis show that the female immortal possesses the agency of the mortal female as well as of the mortal male within in their oikos. The female immortal displays power by sustaining her space, as well as by regulating the movements of the mortal man, in and out of, and sometimes beyond, her space.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Teologiska institutionen, Uppsala universitet , 2016. , 166 p.
Keyword [en]
Homer, Odyssey, Queer, Queer theory, Power, Space, Spatial analysis, Sexuality, Gender, Judith Butler, Jack Halberstam, Kim Knott, Circe, Calypso, Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis, Greek Myth, Monster.
National Category
History of Religions
Research subject
History of Religions
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-286865ISBN: 978-91-506-2550-9OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-286865DiVA: diva2:922112
Public defence
2016-06-10, Gustavianum Auditorium Minus, Akademigatan 3, 753 10 Uppsala, Uppsala, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-05-19 Created: 2016-04-22 Last updated: 2016-05-20

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