Odyssey Reading Group: Book 6 Lines 211-238

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Odyssey Reading Group: Book 6 Lines 211-238

Post by Paul Derouda » Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:17 pm

seanjonesbw wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:43 pm
If I might borrow from the several examples of Finnish nudity you've offered up (I hope archive.org makes a copy of this thread for future generations) - given the knowledge that it is not seen as 'indecent' for students to run naked through the streets, and the knowledge that it's not indecent to be naked in front of girls under 7 in the context of a swimming pool, I don't think it's possible for a non-Finn to infer that nudity would be indecent in front of visitors in the home. So we need more evidence - in your argument, Odysseus saying αἰδέομαι γὰρ γυμνοῦσθαι is the evidence that in this exceptional situation (away from the palace), a line has been crossed and his nakedness is indecent.
Of course running around naked is considered indecent. But it is rather mildly so, so it's just the sort of prank young people can do to feel united. I don't even know much this happens nowadays, I guess I need to ask because it's some time since I was a student myself... Maybe people are now playing Fortnite in student parties, for all I know.
But how then do we interpret Nausicaa telling her ἀμφίπολοι to engage in something indecent? Does she not know the standard of decency here? To come back to your Finnish example - if you accidentally walked out naked in front of your visitors, apologised on account of it being indecent, but then they offered to give you a bath, where should I (the non-Finn) draw the line of decency? Based on your apology or their offer?
I suppose you're joking. "But how then do we interpret Nausicaa telling her ἀμφίπολοι to engage in something indecent?" I don't think this is the right question. She is not asking them to engage something indecent. It's rather that the protagonists see the situation differently. Nausicaa overcomes her fears quickly and tries to act like a consummate host, but washing Odysseus personally in the wilderness would have been beneath her dignity, or at least she understandably feels so at the moment. The slave girls are much more timid than she is, and they're still wary of Odysseus, whom they still consider a filthy bum, and don't want to touch him. But there is no question of Odysseus' nakedness being indecent; it's just that he pretends to scruple/to be embarrassed/ashamed/whatever, to save, according to the interpretation, either the slave girls or Nausicaa from an uncomfortable situation. It's possible for him say so with some credibility, because in any culture, there is much variation in what different people consider appropriate or inappropriate in different situations; to say things like "Odysseys can/can't possibly claim to be embarrassed when naked because neither was Telemachus when he was bathed", is bound to be an oversimplification.

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Odyssey Reading Group: Book 6 Lines 211-238

Post by Paul Derouda » Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:29 pm

jeidsath wrote:
Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:52 pm
I still think that the αιδως here is about dirt and grime rather than nudity. (Paul, what is Finnish etiquette about a sauna right after a workout or backpacking trip? I assume people are supposed to wash themselves off first? And if they are dirty enough, might even be a bit embarrassed about washing themselves in front of others?)

In support of this, are ἀπολούσομαι and χρίσομαι really future? If they are aorist subjunctive, then Odysseus is saying "stay back until..." not "stay back in order that..."?
So one should be ashamed to wash when one is dirty...? No, Odysseus looking like a filthy bum is why the slave girls don't want to touch him, but Odysseus refuses just for the sake of being polite – either to the slave girls, or to Nausicaa, if we believe Jones.

For a Finn, a sauna right after a workout or any kind outside activity would be ideal. If I go to gym, whether with my friends or alone, I always go to sauna in the end. And no, we would have no shame whatsoever, however dirty we happened to be! Beside foreigners, only teenagers, who are by nature insecure, might feel embarrassed, whether they are dirty or not (you often see teenagers showering and going to sauna with their swimsuits on, although it's forbidden for hygienical reasons).

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Re: Odyssey Reading Group: Book 6 Lines 211-238

Post by mwh » Thu Aug 15, 2019 9:57 pm

Just popping in here again, to say I agree with almost everything Paul has written in this thread (which I confess I haven’t done more than skim). One slight reservation: I’m not so sure we should imagine Odysseus is only pretending when he says
ἄντην δ᾽ οὐκ ἂν ἐγώ γε λοέσσομαι· αἰδέομαι γὰρ
γυμνοῦσθαι κούρῃσιν ἐυπλοκάμοισι μετελθών.
I think we should view him as being in the circumstances genuinely constrained by αιδώς.

A propos (of both αιδώς and circumstances), I'll break my usual rule and repeat something I said in my first post, making a distinction that I hope will now be less controversial: “the fact that he’s ended up filthy and naked after his marine experiences may well be a bit embarrassing for him among all these nubile innocents but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, nothing dishonourable—he’s done nothing shameful” (i.e. nothing aischron).

And I’ll throw in another Greek word: τα αιδοια. (And I do hope that won't lead to yet more discussion of what particular English words do and don't mean.)

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Re: Odyssey Reading Group: Book 6 Lines 211-238

Post by seneca2008 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 11:13 am

Paul Derouda wrote:Well, when Jones writes "The conclusion must be that it was not modesty on Nausicaa's part that prevented her bathing Odysseus", the way I understand this is specifically that he is referring to why Nausicaa didn't personally wash Odysseus but gave the task to the slave girls.
For those who have not read the article the way you quote Jones here might give the impression that this is the conclusion of his paper. I think the argumentation is more subtle and nuanced than the way you present it.

He is seeking to rebut claims that what motivates Nausicaa in instructing her "ἀμφίπολοι" to wash Odysseus are solely feelings of "modesty" in relation to his nakedness and filthiness or her status. As I read it her decision is motivated by "αἰδώς" in the sense of respect for Odysseus as "ξένος". She takes the role that her father will take later on in ordering the bath. This is of course not what she should have done. As Nestor shows the proper form is to offer the bath in one's house not on the beach.

Then as has been described above this misapplication of the rules of "ξενία" leads to confusion on the part of the "ἀμφίπολοι" and Odysseus trying to save face for Nausicaa.

Thus we don't have to consider Nausicaa's attitude to her personally washing Odysseus because it doesnt arise. She may or may not have the feelings you and others attribute to her but its is difficult to find them in the text. As far as I know no-one in the Odyssey spontaneously offers to bathe a "ξένος". They wait for someone to order it.

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Re: Odyssey Reading Group: Book 6 Lines 211-238

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Aug 16, 2019 12:56 pm

Seneca: thanks for the precision. My point was indeed not to present that as the conclusion of the paper, but to point out a little weakness in the argument. As I tried to say, whether one accepts the conclusion or not, I found the article very stimulating and definitely recommended reading for anyone intrigued by this passage.

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Re: Odyssey Reading Group: Book 6 Lines 211-238

Post by seanjonesbw » Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:40 pm

So as I understand it we all disagree about what Odysseus is feeling, what he means by αἰδέομαι, what the motive is behind him asking the ἀμφίπολοι to stand back, what the ἀμφίπολοι are feeling, what they mean when they say λοῦσθαι, whether Nausicaa is behaving properly when she orders the bath and whether the ἀμφίπολοι disobey her orders. Oh, and what αἰδώς means.

Probably time to start next week's thread.
ἁλὶ γὰρ δέδμητο φίλον κῆρ 🌊

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