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The Many-Minded ManThe "Odyssey," Psychology, and the Therapy of Epic$
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Joel P. Christensen

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501752346

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501752346.001.0001

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Homeric Psychology

Homeric Psychology

(p.21) 1 Homeric Psychology
The Many-Minded Man

Joel P. Christensen

Cornell University Press

This chapter presents the author's view of psychology in Homer. It begins by suggesting that the Odyssey is particularly interested in a central psychological issue — agency — and that it demands that its audience consider issues of agency and responsibility throughout its plot. The chapter then distinguishes the author's view of Homeric psychology from prior treatments among Homerists by introducing concepts from Jerome Bruner and Mark Turner (among others), who have written about connections between narrative and literature, on the one hand, and human psychology, on the other. These two authors conceptualize some generalizable concepts — Bruner's “folk psychology” and Turner's “everyday mind” — which provide frameworks for thinking of the Odyssey as therapeutic on a social level, especially in the context of repeated performances. In pursuing this last framework, the chapter starts by teasing out some common threads that help to support the Odyssey as an investigation of human minds before addressing the issue of the engagement between the epic and collective mentalities.

Keywords:   Homer, Odyssey, agency, Homeric psychology, narrative, literature, human psychology, folk psychology, epic, collective mentalities

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