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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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Odysseus’s Lies

Odysseus’s Lies

Correspondence, Coherence, and the Narrative Agent

(p.115) 5 Odysseus’s Lies
The Many-Minded Man

Joel P. Christensen

Cornell University Press

This chapter explores the creation of narrative agency by examining Odysseus's lies in the second half of the Odyssey from a perspective informed by correspondence and coherence in memory. The lying tales offer a continuing although coded probing of the relationship between the self, internal motivation, external action, and an evaluation of consequences. Odysseus's storytelling changes from reflective of his own experiences to manipulative of his addressees and, finally, in addresses to the suitors in particular, predictive of future actions. In an important way, this pattern continues the process of Narrative Therapy, as Odysseus continues to re-author his past in order to predict and act in the future. But this process also entails a complex negotiation between the correspondence of narrative details, which may be shared by a community, and the agent's need for coherence. The chapter's reading of the lies echoes what others have said — that they are instruments by which he achieves his psychological homecoming — but also argues that they have other functions as well in helping to distinguish Odysseus's character further and in providing insights for the Homeric understanding of the interdependence between storytelling and the working of human minds.

Keywords:   narrative agency, Odysseus, Odyssey, correspondence, coherence, storytelling, Narrative Therapy, lying tales, psychological homecoming

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