William Tennyson 's Ulysses And The Tradition Of The Odyssey

1472 WordsOct 5, 20176 Pages
After centuries of serving background noise to her husband Ulysses’ odes of sea storms, sirens, and celebrity, the mythological Penelope finally steps into the light in Miriam Waddington’s poetic work “Ulysses Embroidered.” Functioning as a revisionary text to both the Alfred, Lord Tennyson work “Ulysses” and the tradition of The Odyssey itself, “Ulysses Embroidered” quickly strikes its readers as a fiercely feminist re-envisioning of Penelope and the story she offers up. Waddington’s work allows for an age-old legend to be told in a new way with a bold, feminine speaker, but to what end do her changes remark on Tennyson’s original work? By engaging in two separate modes of revision by both reading against the grain and “constantly…show more content…
This transfer of the power of voice plays out similarly within Waddington’s diction choices as pitched against those of Tennyson. While Tennyson brings to great detail the admirable bravado and intimate victories of Ulysses’ journeys, the same marvels are expressed differently through Waddington’s perspective. These events are mentioned, but by listing in passing, not in Ulysses’ terms of conquest and action. While Ulysses takes the place of a passive character and only performs an action in his coming home and “climbing the stairs,” Penelope fills the seat of the active rescuer and change-maker (25). She truly has a chance to describe him like Tennyson’s speaker offhandedly refers to her and to do so in new terms. Thus it is within Waddington’s diction choices about the actions of Penelope, not Ulysses, that her stanzas most reflect the gallant rhetoric akin to Tennyson’s work. From when “her stitches embroider the painful colors of her breath,” to her creation of Ulysses as “a medallion emblazoned in tapestry,” Penelope’s labors in the creation and retelling of her husband constitute the most powerful language in the work (Waddington 37-40, 30-32). Here, the facade of her “blind hands” falls away to reveal the true potency of Penelope’s situation as creator and overseer. This very idea of blindness used by Tennyson and Homer’s speakers to disregard Penelope as old, naive to truth, and inane for her endless and fruitless weaving is notably alluded to twice

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