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Ever since its appearance in 1997, Charles Frazier’s novel, Cold Mountain, has been billed as a latter-day Odyssey. Separate unattributed book notes on the world wide web speak of its protagonist’s “dangerous odyssey” and his “odyssey through the devastated landscape of the soon-to-be-defeated South.” One reviewer styles the novel "a Confederate deserter's homeward odyssey"; another characterizes it as having “reset much of the 'Odyssey' in 19th-century America.” While such assertion of parallelism between the novel and Homer’s epic is widespread, it also tends to remain general and relatively unadorned. It evidently rests on such typically odyssean plot elements as a homeward journey (nostos) and geographicallychallenging and picaresque adventures. A more detailed comparison of Cold Mountain to its Greek archetype, however, reveals a richer, subtler and more systematic dialogue with the Odyssey that invites the reader to attend first to plot parallels, both broad and specific, then to similarities and contrasts in the protagonists’ characterizations, and finally to ways that the resultant intertextuality helps to advance the novel’s themes.


Pre-print version of article that appeared in Classical and Modern Literature, published by the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia.


Classical and Modern Literature, Inc.



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