G. Călinescu Institute of Literary History and Theory of the Romanian Academy
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Feminine rewritings of the Odyssey (2): Madeline Miller, Circe
Abstract: In her novel, Madeline Miller proposes reconstructing Circe’s legends from classical sources by offering a feminine, even feminist, perspective on events. In the protagonist’s account, the witch’s history appears as a delineation from the despotic deities and a way of coming closer to the mortals which ultimately ammounts to abandoning her own condition. The central part of the novel starts from the story of Odissey and continues with events narrated in Telegony, poem which was dedicated to the son of Odysseus and Circe who unwillingly became the killer of his father. Although she follows the Homeric narrative in detail, the author sometimes relates critically to the literary model. The events told by Odysseus and Circe in a heroic or debunking form reveal their polivalence. In the extension of the Homeric narrative, the last part of the novel encompasses the events that occurred after the return to Itaca of Odysseus, unable to find fulfillment on his native lands because of his thirst for the unknown and adventures. The hero’s image gradually darkens, the author accentuating his violence or his generalized suspicion. Reconstructing the events from Circe’s perspective allows Madeline Miller to delineate from the Odyssey which she has followed scrupulously up to a certain point.
Keywords: epic poem, modern novel, rewriting, feminine perspective
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Miller, Madeline. Circe. Translated by Ioana Filat. Bucharest: Paladin, 2019.