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Article Title

Intertextualizing Polyphemus: Politics and Ideology in Walcott's Odyssey

Abstract

In this paper I provide a detailed analysis of Derek Walcott's appropriation of Homer's Odyssey 9, with particular emphasis on his use of time, space, and character. I argue that his treatment of these essentially performative elements lends the Cyclops episode a decidedly political flavor, as it helps him to expose and renounce ideological oppression. His Cyclops is not, as in the Homeric antecedent, a fictionalized, and to some extent irrelevant, barbarian, but the all-too-real enforcer of a totalitarian government, while his one-eyedness is a symbol of moral and aesthetic degradation. Resistance and liberation comes from Odysseus who emerges as the courageous and action-oriented embodiment of traits that lie dormant in the character of the Philosopher, a passive subject of Cyclops' rule. Walcott's rendering of the Homeric episode thus dramatizes postcolonial and broadly political concerns, thereby becoming a classic of our times.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.

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