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An Odyssey for Our Time

Barbara Köhler’s <i>Niemands Frau</i>

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In her 2007 poem cycle <I>Niemands Frau</I>, Barbara Köhler returns to Homer’s <I>Odyssey</I>, not to retell it, but to take up some of the threads it has woven into the cultural tradition of the West – and to unravel them, just as Penelope, the wife of the hero who called himself Nobody, unravelled each night the web she re-wove by day. Köhler’s return to the <I>Odyssey</I> takes place under the sign of a grammatical shift, from ‘er’ to ‘sie’, from the singular hero to a plurality of female voices – Nausicaa, Circe, Calypso, Ino Leucothea, Helen and Penelope herself – with implications for thinking about identity, power and knowledge, about gender and relationality, but also about the corporeality and multivocality which underlies the ‘virtual reality’ of the printed text.<br/>The eight essays in this volume explore Köhler’s iridescent poem cycle from a variety of different angles: its context in contemporary German refigurations of the classical; its engagement with Homer and the classical tradition; its contribution to feminist philosophy of the subject and a female ‘dialectic of enlightenment’; its incorporation of the voices of poetic predecessors; and the surprising alliance it uncovers between poetry and quantum theory.

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