The Motif of the Blinding of Polyphemus Between Homer and Callimachus

The Metapoetic Aspect of Poem as Magic Incantation


  • Jelena Isak Kres University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Slovenia



Odyssey, blinding of Polyphemus, incantation, Euripides, Polyxenus of Cythera, Callimachus


The paper discusses the metapoetic aspect of a poem as a magic incantation, focusing on the Polyphemus theme repeatedly addressed by various post-Homeric authors. With its motif of the giant’s blinding, the Polyphemus theme readily lent itself to the inclusion of a parallel motif: the poem as a magic tool conducive to attaining one’s objective (including politically motivated ones) in confronting one’s adversary, since a magic incantation blinds its ‘victim’ in much the same way that physical blinding does. Later, when the Polyphemus theme widened to encompass the giant’s love for the Nereid Galathea, the motif of physical and metaphorical blinding was complemented with the motif of poetic self-blinding, as a primal metaphor for the poet’s creation of poetic illusion.


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