The Myth of Ulysses in the Postwar Novel: Tragic and Anti-tragic mode in Stefano D’Arrigo and Walter Jens

Nora Moll


In Twentieth Century’s Literature, the various declinations and rewritings of the Odysseus’ theme were conducted both in the tragic and the anti-tragic mode: the latter involving often, but not necessarily, the use of narrative strategies of parody. Referring to Hans Blumenberg (1979), we can speak of a constant “work on myth” that goes hand in hand with the development of postmodern poetics and elaboration of history, characterized by different narrative styles and strategies depending on the literary and cultural context in which they are inserted. Starting from one of the main theories about literary rewriting, as well as about mythopoetic and mythocritical discourse in twentieth century, this article aims to examine in a comparative perspective two novels, conceived almost at the same time in the Fifties, even if published separated by a distance of years. This is the "Mediterranean" novel Hocynus Orca (1975), by the Sicilian Stefano D'Arrigo, and Das Testament des Odysseus (1957), by the German writer Walter Jens, who is also known for his theoretical work on Greek mythology and tragedy. In these novels both authors choose the odyssean hypotext for liaising with the difficult legacy of World War II, but also to express its positioning in the contemporary world. The need to "complete" (Blumenberg) the myth of Ulysses thus produces in D'Arrigo a reinterpretation of the novel in the epic and tragic way, while Jens escapes to the anti-tragic modus offering to its anti-hero a secondary way out from his own myth.


Stefano D’Arrigo; Walter Jens; novel; postwar period; rewriting of Odysseus myth; tragic; anti-tragic

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