In The Raft of Odysseus, Carol Dougherty wishes to read several major episodes of the Odyssey as ways of imagining colonial experience, and as informed by the discourse of colonial foundation. Odysseus can be compared to an ethnographer, who gains self-knowledge through a process of “decoding” a foreign culture and “recoding” it for one’s own, so that “the strange becomes familiar and the familiar strange” (p. 10). At the same time, he is also a colonist, whose experiences among the Phaeacians and Cyclopes offer complementary images of colonial encounters, and a traveling poet, who trades his stories for commercial profit. I am sympathetic to D.’s approach, having interpreted the Cyclopeia and Mnesterophonia as cultural and political foundation narratives in my own work (1995). I was thus curious to see what was gained by shifting the focus to “colonial” foundation, but must confess I found myself so exasperated by the sheer number of errors contained in this book—a “catalogue of slips” alone would exceed the space allotted this review—that at first I could not see what it contributed to the study of Homer or ancient ethnography.
Cook, E. (2003). [Review of the book The Raft of Odysseus: The Ethnographic Imagination of Homer's Odyssey, by C. Dougherty]. Classical Philology, 98(2), 184-189.