Abstract

Notwithstanding enormous differences between Homer’s Odyssey and Patrick Modiano’s postmodern La place de l’Etoile (Star Square), his Holocaust-haunted novel of 1968, this comparative study shows the two to have surprisingly numerous substantial parallels in themes, moral reference, and narrative structure. The sharing of moral reference in spite of extensive dissimilarities is echoed in Emmanuel Lévinas’s ethics: he grounded his philosophy in a fusion of Greek and Jewish thought much like the interpretive fusion at work in this comparison. Moreover, Lévinas’s face of the stranger, his ethic’s central image, harmonizes both with the kaleidoscopic face, central image of La place de l’Etoile, and with the protean persona of Odysseus the stranger. The tension between the similarities and the differences reflects the realist-constructivist debate about the nature of literary interpretation, as found in the tension between the article’s playful, personal interpretation and Classical Reception Studies portraying the Odyssey as an overriding, impersonal intertext. These tensions allow the inference that Paul Ricoeur rightly posited semantically tense metaphor as a paradigm of literary criticism. The article also leads to an understanding both of Modiano’s novel as a Holocaust-inflected updating of the Odyssey, and of both texts as interpretation-bound visions of what it means to be human.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1528-4212
Print ISSN
0010-4132
Pages
pp. 28-56
Launched on MUSE
2016-03-23
Open Access
No
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