This program will NOT be recorded
About thirty years ago, through a series of synchronistic events, Penelope entered my world. She engaged my curiosity and my longing to discover who she is for Homer, for me, and for all of us today. To begin my journey to Penelope, I read Homer, so to speak, through Penelope’s eyes. This was the beginning of my journey to Penelope and into her world. As a result of my research, I have developed a map of Homer’s Epos, which includes and engages Penelope and her story.
Most readers of Homer’s Odyssey are taught to see it as the story of its hero, Odysseus. This is what Odyssey means, “Odysseus’ story.” Sadly, our ancient and outdated teaching methods omit Penelope, except as an appendage to Odysseus, as his forlorn wife, and as a weeping queen. However, a thorough reading of the poem shows us that she occupies a central position as an active player and is the equal of Odysseus. For Homer, she is herois. She is the first heroine in the Western canon, the first single working mother, and the first queen to confront an insurgency. In addition Penelope is the pole star that guides us home, for without her there is no home, no homecoming, and no great epic poem.
During our time together, I shall share some of what I have mapped as a result of decades of research and writing. Use a translation of Homer to your liking, paying close attention to Books I, IV (lines 674 through the end of this chapter), and Books XVII-XXIII. I favor Richmond Lattimore’s translation and also enjoy the Harvard Loeb Classic Library’s translation by A. T. Murray, edited by George E. Dimock. Though you may prefer another.
Please bring your journals and drawing tools with you to the seminar. We shall stop periodically to give you a chance to write and reflect, even if we don’t cover everything I have outlined!!
Here is the plan for this three-session seminar, A Journey to Penelope and Into Her World.
May 11: Book I and Book IV
Tonight, at the beginning of our journey, we shall read some of this beautiful poetry for the sheer enjoyment of tasting and hearing the words.
Speak Memory . . .
Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
Far journeys, after he had sacked Troy’s sacred citadel . . .
. . . This one alone, longing for his wife and his homecoming.
Next, we’ll take a deep dive into Book 1, step over the threshold of Homer’s epos and into the story, where we encounter two great goddesses and Homer’s herois, Queen Penelope. In the very first line of the poem, which dates from the 8th_ century BCE, we meet Mnemosyne, the first primordial muse. Next, we meet the Goddess Athene. Then, very quickly, Homer brings Queen Penelope on stage. Notably, readers won’t meet Odysseus until Book V.
The story begins with a twist. Something catastrophic has just occurred, which could change the course of history. Athene enters Penelope’s great high-roofed halls. We go with her as stranger-guests, and into the heart of Homer’s great charter poem.
By now some tools from your analytical and interpretive toolbox will naturally have come into play. Go with it!
In Book IV, lines 674 and forward to the end of this chapter, Penelope, weaver of dreams, prays to Athene for the safety of her son, Prince Telemachos, and for the safety of Odysseus. In answer to her prayer, Athene comforts Penelope by sending her a dream in the shape of a beloved sister.
May 18: The Backstory
Tonight we step aside from Homer’s work to explore some of Penelope’s backstory, elements about her life and her history not mentioned specifically by the Master Poet: information you may not know, but which was probably known by Homer and by the original auditors and readers of the epos. This information is available in the writings of other ancient poets, travel writers, mythographers, geographers, and storytellers respected by Homeric scholars. We shall discover some of Penelope’s legend and story, using information I have gleaned from such sources. For example, information about Penelope’s family tree, her hometown, how she met Odysseus, circumstances surrounding her choice to marry Odysseus, her position as sacred queen and king-maker, and the mystery of the meaning of her name.
Additionally, we shall reflect on how we each read and interpret stories like the Odyssey. I will suggest some tools and models from my Archetypal Pattern Analyst’s Tool Box, which I used to explore and map Penelope’s story; you might want to share some of yours.
May 25: Penelope, Queen of Ithaka
Book XVII—Book XXIII
Tonight, as we return to Homer’s poem, we see Penelope step boldly to center stage. Her presence, power, and energy direct the action from the time the much-abused, much-disguised beggar king Odysseus returns to her great high-roofed halls. We shall take a guided tour through those moments when Penelope tests her suppliant until, in Book XXIII, she is satisfied that this man is indeed her Odysseus. Book XIX is of particular importance; we’ll take time to go through it with interest and attention. It will not be long before you see why.
Last, we’ll take some time to review our journey—the journey to Penelope and into her world. It is my hope that you will have discovered a deeper connection with Penelope, she who remains loyal to that which she loves and with whom she is destined to be united, even in the absence of its physical presence in her life, and even in the absence of any material evidence that it exists at all.
Dr. Bonnie L. Damron is a psychotherapist, ethnographer, storyteller, and Archetypal Pattern Analyst in private practice in the Washington, D. C. metropolitan area. She is an independent scholar, with a particular interest in pre-patriarchal, goddess-based, and woman-centered cultures. During her many years in practice, she has led seminars on the writings of C. G. Jung, archetypal motifs in fairy tales, myths, the arts, and has conducted study tours to Crete and the Greek mainland.
Dr. Damron holds a Masters of Social Work degree from Catholic University, a Doctoral Degree from the University of Maryland, Department of American Studies, and a Certificate as an Archetypal Pattern Analyst from the Assisi Institute for Archetypal Studies.
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