Human cognition and narrative closure

The Odyssey’s open-end 1

Authored by: Joel P. Christensen

The Routledge Handbook of Classics and Cognitive Theory

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138913523
eBook ISBN: 9781315691398
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter applies insights from modern cognitive science and psychology concerning the importance of narrative closure to the ending of the Odyssey. By surveying cognitive explanations for human response to closure alongside representations of problematic closure in the epic’s final book, I argue that the poem itself is sensitive to the complex relationship between a cognitive expectation for closure and a need for the story to continue. The exploration demonstrates that the epic depicts the resolution of narratives as dangerously pleasurable while problematic endings present opportunities for narrative agency.

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