Discussion Forum: Week 11

This week, we’ll finish reading Miller’s Circe. In conversation with the other members of your Family, consider one of the following prompts:

  • How does Miller retell the story of Circe’s famous encounter with Odysseus? How does having read the Odyssey affect how you understand this encounter? How does reading this encounter change the way you understand the Odyssey?
  • Last week, we talked about how Circe’s hopes for her life begin to coalesce around two goals: finding a sense of purpose in her solitary existence, and building lasting connections with other people (divine or mortal). Does she achieve either of these goals, in your view? How do they relate to the decision she makes at the very end of the novel?
  • Circe’s early life involves repeated traumas: her rejection and bullying by her family and the other nymphs and gods; her rejection by Glaukos, and the violence against Skylla she comes to regret deeply; her horrifying encounter with the minotaur (technically, her nephew); the sexual violence inflicted on her by the pirates. How do these traumas shape her development in the second half of the novel? Is she able to transcend these experiences or achieve any kind of healing from them?

This week, each family will hold its own conversation below. Reply to my family comment headers below, or to someone else in your family!

Remember, you can be very brief in these comments, but you need to add something new (an observation, an argument, a quotation, a question). For full instructions on participating in the discussion forum, click here. Your comment should be submitted before midnight on Wednesday.


    1. I think Circe does achieve her goal of making connections. I knew Circe had found a connection with Penelope at this moment, after they had spoken at the table with the herbs and potions: “She nodded. I did not have to explain. We knew what will was” (Miller, 338). In this moment, it’s clear Circe and Penelope have an unspoken bond through their experiences. I’m not sure if Circe has found purpose yet. I thought perhaps Telegonus gave her purpose, but I don’t like to think women must be mothers to have purpose. I think Circe’s “purpose” and what spurred her to die/become mortal (it was a bit unclear to me what exactly happened) was to do something that was solely for her – not for her father or siblings, or a man, or her son – the regaining of agency over her life that she would’ve probably never had as an immortal.

      1. I totally agree! I truly think Circe was able to make connections with mortals and found more solidarity among mortals. With the trauma present in Circe’s life, I think she was able to connect more with others who also experienced trauma compared to immortals like her sister or her father. I think it is hard to identify one singular purpose for Circe as she was immortal for most of the novel. To this end, I find it impossible for her to devote her entire life to one singular thing. I think Telegonus gave Circe somewhat of a purpose during his adolescence, but Circe rightfully moved on, and her purpose shifted when he left the island. I agree with you in that I think a lot of Circe’s purpose has to do with her own individuality and sense of self. As an immortal her individuality and sense of self is constantly changing with new chapters of her life and new connections with others.

      2. I completely agree that Circe succeeded in making connections. I think that, in the section that you quoted, the fact that Circe’s connection with Penelope is unspoken yet wholly understand stood out to me because it signifies a deeper connection between these two figures. I think that the kinds of relationships in which people anticipate each other’s thoughts and values without verbal clarification represent a kind of understanding that is hard to achieve. In addition, I think that shared experiences serve to solidify friendships, which further proves that Circe was able to develop a meaningful relationship with Penelope.

        1. I totally agree! I think Circe is very interesting when it comes to making connections, because she doesn’t fit in with her family, or the place that she assumed she would fit in. She is able to connect, and feel empathy for mortals, which is something that those around her lack, which makes her more unique, and makes more sense when it comes to her relationship with Odysseus.

      3. I agree with your analysis, especially with the fact that her decision on mortality was based on her own purpose. I think that it continued to grow the connections she wanted and that Telegonus helped her reach these connections, albeit not necessarily the only way or reason she ended up at the place she did. In the end, I think that she found a purpose by becoming mortal, however, I do not believe that this was the same purpose that she had while she was immortal, rather her viewpoint on life shifted and thus this was a “new” goal that helped her to fulfill her life.

      4. I completely agree with your analysis, especially at the end when you said what motivated Cerci to “die” was a result of her wanting to do something on her own accord finally. Something that benefitted her, and only her, and not something that she sacrificed for somebody else. This can be translated to the real world because women are often faced with the burden of offputting everyone above themselves.

    2. In the encounter between Circe and Odysseus, at first, I didn’t even notice that she had met him, there were so many sailors/pirates that came to her island that when Odysseus finally came to Circe’s house I hadn’t even realized. It wasn’t until I read this line, that I finally put the pieces together. “A jagged scar ran up his muscled calf from heel to thigh, but it was old and faded (175).” Having read the Odyssey, I knew that this encounter would happen, and I knew that this moment in the book would play a much bigger role than it did in the Odyssey. Miller’s version of this story explores so much more of their relationship, a lot more than the Odyssey did. I think that her retelling of their encounter made it somewhat sweeter, wittier, and flirty. It was interesting to see how often Circe compared him to Daedalus, like his scars and mind, almost as if she was constantly searching for someone to make her feel she was safe and appreciated. What surprised me was Odysseus constantly mentioning his wife, talking about how smart and amazing she was, despite cheating on her with Circe. In fact, the first time he talks about her seriously, they’re literally in bed together. However, it was heartbreaking to see how much it upset Circe, she’s a character you can’t help but feel bad for, she’s been bullied, ignored, attacked, and underestimated her entire life. And watching their relationship evolve after long, intimate conversations and Circe subtly trying to get him to stay just for all of it to be proven futile was expected but heartbreaking nonetheless.

      1. I enjoyed your analysis and response of Circe’s and Odysseus’ encounter nuanced with having read the Odyssey. I would agree that there is a lot more insight into the relationship in this encounter from what we saw in the Odyssey. There is a lot more tension and conflict with Odysseus talking about his wife even though he cheated on her with Circe. I think a more sympathetic version of Circe is shown as she is portrayed as having endured different longings and hardships. I think seeing the differences between the texts sheds light on how different perspectives are present than just the main narrative. It also allowed me to enjoy this epic greek myth because of its complexity and my ability to interpret the texts in my own way.

      2. Alia, I totally agree with you. I also noticed that while Circe highlighted their affection, Odysseus described their relationship as an unhappy sexual partnership. Odysseus emphasizes the purity of his marriage by distancing himself from his feelings for Circe. But at the same time, in order to show his masculinity, he described Circe as a goddess who admired him but was not worthy of a noble person like him.

        1. I really agree with this, because I think it’s so important as a reader because we are kind of given two different stories like you lay out in your comment. I think what I also talked about in class is how circle is called in the Oddessy as nothing but a goddess or witch compared to her description of Odesseys where she doesn’t even say his name at times but describes him so elegantly about his features. I think that Farmer is right about kinda this romance Circe is written with. Overall I agree with you all

      3. Alia, I really like your analysis and observation of Circe and Odysseus’s first encounter. Miller’s reading of this encounter changed my perspective when compared to Homer’s reading. We see so much more emotion and insight into Circe’s feelings. Especially after learning about her family trauma and feeling excluded as a child, it was hard to see what she was going through with Odysseus continuing to talk about his wife despite their relationship, and how it almost brought back childhood feelings. I think after reading Miller’s telling I feel a lot more sympathy for Circe and ultimately feel like Odysseus was almost using her to try to fill the role of Penelope which is not fair for Circe because of the real feelings she had for him.

      4. I definitely agree and thank you for the detailed analysis! The Odyssey definitely provides a very masculine perspective in which a lot of details are glazed over like little care for circe or his wife’s feelings regarding the situation. Meanwhile Circe is a lot more intimate in that it details these nuances more.

      5. I think Miller gave so much more insight and depth to Circe’s character in her work. As Alia mentioned, the readers really get to see Circe’s hurt when Odysseus speaks so highly of his wife while in bed with her. This type of emotional depth and sensitivity makes Circe’s character so easy to empathize with in Miller’s work as Alia was saying. Her character is much so much more heartbreaking but that gives her so much more depth and to be able to see her perspective of the famous encounter is so valuable as a piece of writing. I really think that Miller’s Circe should always be read after the Odyssey in this way: it provides so much depth of emotion to the stories and characters.

    3. Circe’s regret and anguish at her transformation of Scylla demonstrates how different she is from other divinities, such as Pasiphae, who feel no regret over the havoc their monstrous creations wreak on mortal lives. Circe struggles with the deaths Scylla (and thus herself inadvertently) causes over the course of the novel, but she is finally able to heal from at least the ongoing nature of this guilt when she kills Scylla with her magic. However, when Circe discusses the creation of Scylla with Telemachus, and he raises the possibility that Scylla was always destined to be a monster, she says, “Do not try to take my regret from me” (374). Circe’s willingness to recognize that she, rather than some divinely ordained fate, is responsible for Scylla is, I think, indicative of her character development. She caused suffering for countless mortals in her youth by transforming Scylla, but she has spent her whole life trying to figure out how to stop the monster she created. Even when she is given the opportunity to acquit herself of any wrongdoing, she holds to her regret. Circe has no interest in scouring her story of the brutality and cruelty it contains.

      1. I agree completely. Not only does Circe recognize that she is responsible for Scylla being a monster, but she also works to stop the monster. Circe not only feels terrible about the impact that transforming Syclla into a monster has on Scylla herself but also the impact it has on others, specifically humans. Circe feels a sense of responsibility when Scylla kills humans that come into her path, demonstrating her empathy towards human life that other Gods rarely express. I think that Circe’s killing of Scylla brings her development full circle. At first, Circe is not able to recognize that she turned Scylla into a monster, but throughout her time in Aiaia, she is able to grow and accept her actions and internalize her regret. Ultimately Circe is regretful for the creation of Scylla as a monster not because of its impact on her but the adverse effects it has on mortals demonstrating her overall empathy.

      2. I think this analysis is really interesting, especially the part about taking responsibility as growth. You can tell someone is truly sorry for their actions when they don’t try to hide from it, and that’s what Circe does, as you said. In fact, she tries and succeeds in correcting her mistake as best she could. This shows that she is fully awae of her actions and her consequences. Thus, we know that her final decision to become mortal was not an impulsive decision, but a well-thought-out choice made with full awareness of the consequences. In this sense she absolutely transcends these experiences.

      3. It is interesting the way Circe views the consequences of her actions. Most greek gods aren’t shown as remorseful for even their most awful actions, and I think that’s one of the greatest differences between her and the others. Being immortal, and never in danger of losing your life means you don’t always understand the fear of it- but Circe is presented with a very real fear of eternal pain in her encounter with Prometheus. Because of that, and her treatment at the hands of others, she is the only one capable of any sort of sympathy for mortals.

    4. What strikes me most about Miller’s retelling of Circe’s encounter with Odysseus (and I think what Miller clearly wanted to emphasize) is how much more vulnerable and emotional Circe is, from her perspective, while the story from Odysseus’ perspective glosses over that emotion and focuses on Circe as a witch, an prison guard, something keeping Odysseus from his beloved wife in Ithaca. The entirety of the novel highlights Circe’s struggle with patriarchal systems and the misogyny of many of the men who surround her, but in this interaction especially, having read The Odyssey, that theme is glaring to me. The epic does not spend much time describing Circe’s love for or true relationship with Odysseus, and is content to leave her behind as Odysseus sails on.

      1. I totally agree with your analysis. Miller’s retelling adds a lot of more fruitful descriptions of Cirice, especially her mental activities and inner thoughts. These additions make Circie a much more vivid and complete character as compared to the Circie in the Odyssey. Moreover, the encountering between Circe and Odysseus not only added more to Circe but also made the imagery of Odysseus more complete and one can understand him in more depth.

      2. I agree, the encounter between Circe and Odysseus in Miller’s version is more nuanced and complex than the encounter in the “Odyssey”. In “Circe”, the encounter is described as a mutual relationship between two equals who find comfort in each others company. Additionally, in “Circe”, Circe is shown to be trying to find her position in a male dominated society that wants to have control over her, and her friendship with Odysseus helps give a sense of empowerment and agency. Contrarily, Circe is portrayed in “Odyssey” as a one-dimensional character whose only function is to give a challenge for Odysseus to conquer on his journey home.

      3. Jessica, I find your analysis really interesting, and I totally agree. In The Odyssey, the moment between Odysseus and Circe is glossed over and it makes Circe appear almost as a one-dimensional character in the poem with little depth. All we know from this is that Circe is a witch who uses magic to imprison people. However, in Miller’s version, as we discussed in class on Tuesday, the interaction has much more meaning as we see it through Circe’s perspective rather than Odysseus’. Circe appears more vulnerable than we have seen as she opens up to Odysseus romantically and emotionally. Circe’s character in The Odyssey is much more of a device used to show yet another challenging event in Odysseus’ journey home to Ithaca, and we get a very different and more meaningful reading from Miller’s version of the encounter.

    5. Initially, Circe is deeply affected by her past experiences and struggles to find her place in the world. However, as she gains more knowledge and power, she begins to use her abilities to help others and to find a sense of purpose. She becomes a healer, a protector, and a nurturer, using her magic to ease the suffering of those around her.
      Despite this growth, Circe still carries the scars of her past traumas. She remains haunted by her encounters with the minotaur and the pirates, and the memory of these experiences continues to shape her relationships and her choices. She is also burdened by guilt over her role in Skylla’s transformation and tries to make amends for her actions.

      1. I agree with Jared. I think that Circe shows a huge amount of personal growth, especially given the hurdles and trauma of her past. Not only does she try to make up for the mistakes that she had made in the past, I think true growth is the way she admits to her wrongdoings and changes her own perspective and intentions. This kind of growth could be considered very rare for immortals, given that they are characterized and stereotyped as cold, selfish, and uncaring of others.

    6. One impact of Circe’s traumatic experiences on her development is her relationship with Odysseus. She says, “He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none” (237). Part of the appeal of her relationship with Odysseus is the way that she can pretend to be the powerful, untouchable goddess-witch that he sees her as. I think there is an interesting connection here to her portrayal in the Odyssey. There, she is also powerful and static, with very little suggestion of a painful past. The image that Circe puts on for Odysseus is the same one that has defined her for thousands of years. By connecting this aspect of her novel to the Odyssey, Miller asks us to consider Circe’s interior world not just in her own novel, but in the ancient text as well.

    7. Miller’s retelling of Circe’s encounter with Odysseus adds depth and complexity to the story. Circe is only a minor character in the Odyssey however, Miller’s novel offers a more nuanced portrayal of Circe and explores her backstory, motivations, and relationships with other characters.

      Reading Miller’s retelling also changes the way we understand the Odyssey. In the Odyssey, Circe is portrayed as a seductive and dangerous sorceress who threatens Odysseus and his men. However, in Miller’s retelling, we see a different side of Circe and learn that she is not simply a one-dimensional villain. Rather, she is a complex character with her own desires, fears, and motivations. Miller’s novel also challenges the traditional portrayal of women in ancient Greek literature, which often presents them as passive and submissive.

    8. I think the main thing that sticks out about her encounter with Odysseus is how much more is said. Like I feel like in the Odyssey everything is said with this matter of fact tone, but Circe goes so much beyond. It brings a level of emotion to the story, and emotion to that encounter. I also think the way Odysseus is portrayed in Circe is similar in its own way to the tone of Odysseus speaking in the story inside the story.

    1. I think that Circe definitely grows and heals from her trauma. After her rejection from Glaukos and rape at the hands of the pirates, she still manages to feel safe enough with Odysseus to share her bed. And after his abandonment she manages to trust Telemachus with her heart and craft. Additionally, she has been feared and rejected because of her magic her whole life, and still opens her heart to Penelope after Medea’s rejection.

      1. I agree that Circe grows and heals from her trauma. Furthermore, her experiences and trauma allow her to develop a sense of compassion that is rare among gods and those with immortality. It this compassion and Circe’s ability to empathize that defines her character.

      2. I also think she grows and heals throughout the book, because of all of the things she has been through she is able to sympathize with mortals in the way other gods can’t. She knows what it’s like to be completely powerless, she knows what real isolation feels like, and she both loves and loses people. In the end she lives a very human life.

      3. I agree I feel as if her healing didn’t stop her doing things. Especially because the things she went through really left a mark on her forever. She used to empower and strength herself as she continued to what she needed for herself. She was able to understand the humans was something no one could showing how much she has grown instead of treating them badly.

    2. Miller’s retelling of Circe’s encounter with Odysseus highlights the complex nature of the relationship between the two characters. While many of the overarching ideas and stories remain the same (i.e. Odysseus’ crew being turned to pigs) between Miller’s story and Homer’s story, Miller’s retelling allows readers to engage with Circe’s thoughts and emotions. More specifically, we see Circe develop feelings for Odysseus, only to be sad and disappointed by his deep sense of love and longing for Penelope; “The words slid into me, as smooth as a polished knife. I had known he loved her from the moment he’d spoken of her weaving…I had let myself be lulled” (Miller 222). I argue that Miller’s portrayal of Odysseus and Circe’s relationship allows readers to develop a sense of empathy with Circe; we see how she feels led on and betrayed in a sense by Odysseus and his time with Circe.

      1. I totally agree with you, Celia. Greek mythology retellings often reveal different sides of the same characters depending on the focus of that perspective: Circe is no exception. This reminds me of the stories of Medusa across Greek Mythology and the modern receptions. Just like Circe in the Odyssey, Medusa is portrayed as an evil creature. However, the Circe allows readers to see that it’s not that simple. Similarly, Medusa turned from a beautiful woman into a monster because she slept with a God that had a wife. However, who is to say that that is her fault? The Greek Gods commonly cheat on their wives. In Ovid’s version of the myth, Poseidon rapes Medusa. Still, Athena blames Medusa and turns her into the ugly monster she is known to be. In many ways, I pity Medusa. Perhaps readers may pity Circe, too, in this retelling.

        1. I agree with both Celia and Ellie. Miller’s retelling of the encounter between Odysseus and Circe adds depth to Circe’s character allowing the reader to sympathize with and pity her. For me, this retelling of their encounter emphasizes gender dynamics more than Homer’s Odyssey. Miller’s retelling has a feminist lens. Here Circe has agency and challenges traditional gender roles. This challenge is further highlighted when she turns the men into pigs objectifying men like women usually are.

    3. I feel like Circe archives both of her goals in spirit but not necessary in all aspects. For example a way she derives a lot of purpose in her life is through motherhood. Although she does find purpose in this it is because of her connection to another person rather than a purely solitary existence. Similarly Circe is able to build meaningful connections with her son, Penelope and Telemachus but to do this she chooses between divine and mortal instead of trying to make connections on both sides. Circe achieves her goals by moving out of an inbetween space she was occupying. Not quite devine, not really mortal and alone but still surrounded by nymphs or watched by gods. She achieves her goals by choosing to be mortal and to leave her isolation in order to have a stronger sense of purpose and make connections.

    4. I think that Miller’s Circe has definitely changed the way I understand the Odyssey. In Wilson’s translation of the Odyssey, Circe is portrayed as a powerful sorceress who turns Odysseus’ men into pigs and then helps him on his journey home. However, in Miller’s retelling, we get to see Circe’s backstory and her motivations. We see how she is treated unfairly by the gods and how her powers are a way for her to assert herself in a world that seeks to diminish her. This makes us see her in a more sympathetic light and gives us a greater appreciation for her role in the story.

      1. I agree- in the Odyssey, we only see her as a villain, trapping and seducing the hero we are rooting for. This book provides context for her harshness- she has to exert her powers, or she will be taken advantage of. I think this novel also provides insight into why she would seduce Odysseus- she grew up never unconditionally loved, so for her to try to gain love through her power makes more sense.

      2. I definitely agree with you that this story gives us a greater appreciation for the character of Circe. I think that Miller’s expansion of Circe also gives her more agency in the story. In the Odyssey, we really only see Circe from Odyssey’s perspective, making Circe seem as though she is a minor background character. With this new rendition, we get to see Circe have more control over her own story which I think is powerful. Building the myths surrounding Circe, Miller allows her more character development and gives her a stronger presence in Odysseus’s story.

        1. I agree with all the points made. I have developed a deeper knowledge and appreciation for Circe. We have only known them as more of a background character but through Miller’s work it challenges a new perspective. Circe has shown resilience to others and her narrative is unique for the reader.

    5. Miller strips away much of the power that Odysseus is depicted with in the Odyssey. In the original text, Odysseus is shown to resist Circe’s magic and threaten her with his sword, causing her to submit instantly. However, in Miller’s novel, Circe shows no fear throughout this interaction and is clearly not intimidated by Odysseus. This could be an indication of Odysseus’s oft-mentioned deception and trickery. Because this portion of the Odyssey is framed as Odysseus recounting his story to the Phaeacians, one must consider the possibility of Odysseus exaggerating certain scenes to paint himself in a more “heroic” light. As is the case with much of the original text, the veracity of his accounts are questionable as a result of a high probability of bias on the part of the narrator (Odysseus). This new perspective calls into question the accuracy of what we’ve been told about Circe thus far, and provides a fresh angle on a typically unchallenged narrative.

      1. I agree. I think that Miller’s piece was able to redistribute power to Circe in a way that was both realistic and satisfying to read. She makes it abundantly clear that Odysseus sees Circe as a goddess and he holds her in very high esteem, and if there is an imbalance of power between the two of them then Circe is the more powerful figure in the relationship. There is never a moment where he overpowers her in any way, contrary to what the Odyssey might say. I agree that Odysseus is an unreliable narrator and that he would have likely aggrandized himself to be perceived as more powerful than a goddess-witch, but in the same vein I don’t believe that Circe is a completely reliable narrator either. There are moments in the book where she acknowledges the magnitude of Odysseus’ cunning, which sometimes made me wonder if he had ever succeeded in manipulating her or altering her perceptions of either him or their relationship. I still don’t think that makes Circe any less powerful, but I do think that she isn’t an objective storyteller.

      2. I think it’s intriguing how Miller subverts traditional gender roles by portraying Circe as a strong and independent character, which is a significant deviation from the passive portrayal of women in ancient Greek literature. Additionally, Miller’s depiction of Odysseus as an unreliable narrator raises questions about the veracity of his account. His tendency to exaggerate certain scenes and manipulate the story to paint himself in a more favorable light is an interesting deviation from the traditional heroic archetype. Overall, I believe that Miller’s retelling of the story of Circe and Odysseus encourages readers to think critically about the accuracy and potential biases of traditional narratives. Her perspective is both refreshing and thought provoking.

    6. Comparing Miller’s Circe to the Odyssey gives more proof that Odysseus is lying in some of his stories. In the Odyssey we see Circe as a barrier to Odysseus from returning home, but Miller gives her humanity and delves into the details of their encounters. In Circe, the two of them have a deep and intimate connection, which is why Odysseus stayed for so long until his men reminded him he had to leave. But in the Odyssey, Odysseus is our narrator and he cuts out a lot of the relationship they had and she sort of just appears as a villain. The story glosses over the fact that Odysseus chose to stay there for such a long time. If we take Circe’s perspective as the truth then the Odyssey is missing a lot of information, and I wonder what other stories in the Odyssey lose perspective because Odysseus is an unreliable narrator.

      1. I agree with this point. From Circe’s perspective, the relationship is more two-sided. After Circe granted Odysseus’s request to stay through the winter, Miller’s Circe states, “Something shifted in him after that, the releasing of a tension I had not realized he held…Sometimes I would see him watching me. An intentness would come over his face, and he would begin to ask me his casual, sideways questions. About the island, about my father, the loom, my history, witchcraft” (p. 218). Miller’s Circe captures a physical, emotional, and intellectual connection between Odysseus and Circe that the Odyssey largely overlooks. The Odyssey instead portrays his time on the island as a sort of bump in the road.

      2. I completely agree with this comment. I feel like Odysseus would rather lie about her coercive powers than truly admit he had an emotional connection that was worth pausing his journey for, and that was strong enough to make him want to do so. I think this has to do with emotions being associated with weakness, and as we have discussed in the Odyssey, Odysseus as a narrator for his own tale wants to make himself appear as brave and strong as possible.

      3. This is a really good point! However, I personally wouldn’t say that Circe appears villainous in the Odyssey outside of her original appearance/turning his men into pigs at first. In her later talks with Odysseus, she certainly seems in favor of helping him, even giving him his next mission to travel to the underworld. She simply does not do this with as much emotional depth or as much of a connection to Odysseus as Miller’s Circe does, making Miller’s version a much more involved and interesting character, particularly with respect to her relationship to Odysseus. Miller’s Circe also demonstrates more frustration with Odysseus’ desire to leave, with the Odyssey leaves out, possibly to illustrate more of affection from her towards him.

    1. Miller retells the story of their meeting in a way that feels almost romantic. I say “almost” because we can’t avoid the face that Odysseus was cheating on his wife the entire time, and even spoke of her to Circe. He didn’t just do this with Circe, but also with Penelope once he’s back in Ithaca. In a sense it changes the Odyssey to me because now it feels more intimate and vulnerable. Odysseus talks about his wife, his son, the war, his people, his philosophies, and more, and Circe slowly falls in love with him because of this. There’s a moment where she speaks of how he made her feel like she didn’t have any scars, and that is a very intimate thing to say.

      1. While I agree that Circe and Odysseus’ relationship has elements of romance and intimacy, it is also tinged with sadness due to Circe being immortal and Odysseus being mortal. For example, Circe reflects, “But I was thinking again of the relentlessness of mortal lives. Even as we spoke, the moments were passing. The sweet baby was vanished. His son was aging, growing, sharpening into a man. Thirteen years Odysseus had lost of him already. How many more?” Miller’s novel gives us another perspective on the Odyssey because it looks upon Odysseus’ mortality from the outside. Circe is immortal, and so her encounter with Odysseus is just one part of her very long story. We get to see how Odysseus has impacted the lives of others, even though his own lifespan is fleeting compared to the gods.

        1. I agree with aspect of what both you and Sofia said. I think there is definitely a romantic aspect to the return to Ithaca despite our knowledge of Odysseus not being loyal. But for him Circe was this amazing and mystical representation of how perspective is so important. We see it in Percy Jackson as well, Poseidon has a child with Percy’s mom who for her this has led to a child who she will devote her life to but for him it is just one of many. It continues the development of a theme of chaos across Greek mythology and the differences of timing and life spans proves to be a huge factor.

        2. I agree with both, that the encounter not only felt slightly more romantic, but felt vulnerable as well. It was evident that there was more at play rather than just your everyday encounter with someone new. Miller is exceptional with showing us how the two actually learn to fall in love, as opposed to lusting after the other because of initial attraction. And I do agree that there is an almost melancholy feel as Circe knows that she will continue living as someone she loves will grow old and eventually die. There’s a sense of almost loving something you know you can’t have, while also knowing that either way it wouldn’t work.

          1. I agree with everything being said above. This encounter most definitely felt more romantic but also very sad that the same time. There is something bittersweet about choosing to love someone even though you know they will die. I think the point Jay made was very interesting as all the gods in percy jackson did end up having demigod children. I wonder if another reason why the gods weren’t too invested in their demigod children was because it is easier to watch someone you aren’t fully attached to die rather than someone you love die.

        3. I definitely agree that Circe’s love for Odysseus also grows from her knowledge that the relationship is fleeting. This aspect along with witnessing his vulnerable side makes loving Odysseus relatively easy. Seeing an intimate part of him and knowing it can’t last forever makes Circe want to continue this for as long as she can.

      2. I agree, there was a real tone of intimate connection, accompanied by some sorrow/melancholy. As other people have said, the acute awareness that they are on two very different time scales makes it hard to ignore the fact that what would feel like an instance for Circe could encapsulate most of Odysseus’ life. That also makes the story that much more impactful, that something so inconsequential in the grand scale of Circe’s life could have such a profound effect on her.

    2. I think that Circe’s healing process is very complicated, and depends on your definition of healing. She handles her trauma through revenge, specifically by turning sailors on her island into pigs. She is healing her trauma by hurting those who she thinks will hurt her. This may help her mood and provide a sense of justice, but is it not fully curing her trauma and helping her heal. A comparison would be covering a bullet wound with a bandaid, rather than actually healing the bullet wound.

      1. I agree. As we saw throughout the book, she was unable to find true connection with anyone, due to her status among the Greek pantheon or existence as an immortal, she has never been able to find a true connection. However, her breaking point of the pirate’s arrival demonstrates a common reaction to abuse in continuing the cycle. While there were more than likely sailors who deserved to be turned into pigs, and maybe even Odysseus and his crew, this never helped heal Circe and she continued to be hollow even as she came to love Odysseus. It wasn’t until she began accepting who she was, and letting go of the things that had pushed her to her lowest points, that she really only started to begin healing in earnest.

      2. I agree Tali! I also think that diving deeper into Circe’s healing process is very valuable as a modern audience with our own experiences. For example, the description of Circe turning her assaulters into pigs is extremely powerful. The conversation we had in class surrounding her voice in this moment also added to the importance of this moment. It is Miller’s demonstration to the audience that survivors can overcome their trauma. It makes the act of revenge achievable which is very satisfying for many survivors of sexual violence.

    3. I feel as though Circe does eventually make those connections she has longed for for centuries. I feel that she partially makes these long-lasting connections through somewhat desperation. For example, at the end of the novel she is willing to become mortal and live the rest of her days out with Telemachus, whom though she may love she has only just recently met and is making an insurmountable sacrifice for. Though, this would be an example of a long lasting connection fulfilled. I would consider her connection to her son another fulfillment of long-lasting connection, because even though they are apart they love each other greatly. I feel as though her son also gave her a sense of purpose and drive through protecting him and ensuring he lived to see manhood. Protecting and caring for Telegamus, though difficult, gave Circe passion and drive to care for someone else, and protect them, something she had never really experienced before. Her son gave her enough purpose to even confront goddess Athena and challenge her. Thus, I do think she was able to build some long-lasting connections which in turn gave her more purpose in her life.

    4. While I would like to say that Circe did in fact find a deep connection with her son, it did not become lasting until the end of the book. Circe could never fully immerse herself into her godly life because of her mortal voice, and neither could her relationship with her son ‘last forever’ because he would inevitably die and she’d be forced to carry on fading memories that she could share with no one. Circe is finally bridging the gap between her immortality and mortality by finding out who she truly is on the inside. She could not continue making connections until she discovered the extent of her life – if she were to live for eons or several more decades. Circe’s final decision symbolizes her life’s goal to become part of something she could never be fully in.

      1. I totally agree. I think Circe’s connection with her son also gave her purpose. I think Miller did a great job with giving Circe a purpose in her child, but not making that her “role” as a woman. Circe’s motivation for finding purpose in her son is driven by her own experiences, not just the demeaning simplification of a mother role.
        I think it makes sense that she struggled with connections her whole life, as everyone just dies eventually. The fact that she found purpose in her son and gave up her immortality for him shows that she really does believe he is her purpose and drive in life.

    5. Miller’s retelling of the encounter between Circe and Odysseus was delicately emotional. When the slew of sailors entered the cave, I didn’t realize that Circe was talking to Odysseus until his jagged scar was mentioned. The small gestures and qualities of Odysseus that Circe notices build up their relationship to be one that is equitable and genuine and less a business transaction, which is how I read it to be in the Odyssey. Circe also repeatedly associates Odysseus with the ocean: “his voice was resonant, warm, with a pull to it that reminded me of ocean tides” (15.199) and “he was like ocean tides indeed, I thought. You could look up, and the shore would be gone “(15.203). On a more surface level this connection between Odysseus and the ocean could be because Odysseus has been sailing for years and his journey on the sea has become such an embodied part of him. On a deeper level, the fleeting nature of ocean tides may reference the inevitability of Circe’s loneliness and how every visitor she has eventually leaves. Much as the tide can magnetically pull shells and pebbles into its reach, it inevitably retreats to the larger ocean and leaves the objects it held so tenderly and closely back onto the shore.

    6. As devastating as Circe’s early traumas were, they instilled within her the toughness and mental fortitude that then allow her to make meaningful developments as a character later on in the story. In the Odyssey, Circe acts as little more than a temptress for Odysseus on the island of Aeaea. In Miller’s Circe, we see Circe take agency in her life and have an increased role in her own story. This development was enabled by the traumas and hardships that she faced initially.

      1. Despite her cruelty at certain points, I think her experiences also instilled a level of kindness, or maybe just understanding in her that is not present in other gods. When everyone laughs at Scylla (or whatever new godly gossip there is) she does not. She wishes that Glaucos would love Scylla after her transformation, even though that is almost the opposite of what she wanted originally. This lead to Circe’s sympathy for mortals, which eventually leads to her overcoming her fears and trying to really live.

    7. Circe’s search for meaningful relationships seems to be tumultuous across the story, and her journey to achieve this is not always easy. She experiences betrayal and loss, such as when her sister Pasiphae betrays her, or when she says goodbye to Odysseus. However, through these experiences, Circe learns to trust her own judgment and to value her own worth. She becomes more independent and self-reliant through this growth, which allows her to form healthier relationships in the future. It seems as though Circe’s journey in the book is about finding her own sense of identity and self-worth, which allows her to form more real and meaningful relationships with others. Through all of her struggles and successes, she eventually seems to learn that true connection and acceptance come from within.

    8. At the very end of the novel, before Circe drinks the potion that will make her mortal, she imagines/ prophesies the life she will continue to lead: In old age, she will be comforted by Telemachus who will remind her “only that we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive” (385). In this moment, I felt that her lifelong hope of finding connection with mortals and finding contentment in her solitude merged into one. these sentences are an acknowledgement of the loneliness that comes with life; for the immortal, it is the loneliness of eternal life, for the mortal, it is the prospect of death. And yet, the life of a mortal offers loneliness less as a certain state of being and more as something imminent, something that makes one’s connection to the present all the more delicate and all the more beautiful.

    1. I believe that by the end of the novel, Circe does manage to build lasting, meaningful connections. I think that her relationship with Penelope is especially important because it provides a new ending to a recurring story. Throughout her narrative, Circe seeks to create female solidarity but is continually shot down by members of her family. In these interactions with the only other witches she knows, first with her sister, Pasiphae, and then with her niece, Medea, she is treated with unnecessary cruelty. Despite these past exchanges, Circe decides to share her craft with Penelope and in doing so accomplishes her goals.

      1. I agree that Circe manages to build a meaningful relationship with Penelope in the end. However, as you noted, I’m also a little concerned about the fact that many female characters are portrayed in the one-dimensional “evil stepsister” archetype, and this limited perspective is the fundamental reason for Circe’s being unable to build relationships with other women. On another note, we see the theme of women’s solidarity through shared trauma caused by men between Circe and Penelope just as in Philomela and Procne. Circe is very much disappointed by the familial bond between her and her sister Pasiphae, unlike Philomela and Procne. But in this comparison, it’s almost as if Circe makes up for the lost bond in sisterhood through her relationship with Pasiphae, which is pretty sweet.

    2. Having first read the Odyssey, reading Miller’s version of Circe’s encounter with Odysseus made me furious at Odysseus for not leaving Aeaea sooner. The Odyssey clearly laid out everything Odysseus had waiting for him at home and depicted his journey home as controlled by decisions made by the gods and his men. However in Circe, Odysseus and his men are described as staying on Aeaea for a long time enjoying the comforts of an island and the food Circe provided. I was upset that Odysseus didn’t leave Aeaea sooner to continue the voyage home to his family.

      1. I agree. Like Circe points out after Odysseus’s death, he keeps trying to paint himself as a poor, cursed soul just trying to get home, but as we see with Circe (and plenty of other times, like when he chose to land on Polyphemus’s island, and chose to tell him his real name), he is perfectly willing to lengthen his journey if it will bring him more glory. Reading Circe definitely helped me realize how Odysseus twists the truth: when he told the Phaeacians about meeting Circe and living on Aeaea, he basically just bent the truth as far as he possibly could without completely lying. Yes he lived on her island for a long time, but he had the freedom to leave, and their meeting was much less dramatic or aggressive than he claimed it was. I think this portrayal of Odysseus by Madeline Miller is really interesting because while he’s certainly not telling the truth, it’s not quite black-and-white enough to call him a flat-out liar without further explanation.

    3. Having read the Odyssey, the encounter between Odysseus and Circe in Miller’s retelling gives a new perspective to the character of Circe. In the Odyssey, Circe is portrayed as a seductress who tries to keep Odysseus on her island. However, in Miller’s retelling, Circe is portrayed as a complex and sympathetic character who yearns for love and companionship. Reading Miller’s retelling of Circe’s encounter with Odysseus also changes the way one understands the Odyssey. In the Odyssey, Circe is a minor character who is used to demonstrate Odysseus’s cunning and strength. In Miller’s retelling, Circe becomes a fully realized character with her own desires and motivations.

      1. I definitely agree with you on this. Seeing Circe becoming a more bountiful character changes my understanding of the reading of the encounter in the Odyssey. Miller’s retelling opens the readers eyes to the complexity of Circe’s charcter.

      2. I definitely agree and found that I too gained a new perspective on the Odyssey. Miller’s portrayal of Circe as someone who despite the traumas experienced in her past still seeks fulfillment in relationships and connections with others made me shift my mindset because she is painted as a much less complex character in the Odyssey. I think that this also can give us insight to the way that Odysseus’ own accomplishments and successes may have been overstated at the cost of others who helped him and played a part in his story along the way, particularly women. I also think that the depth given to all characters in Circe as opposed to the Odyssey might be indicative of the different times in which they were respectively composed.

      3. I definitely agree with this, and it was really interesting to see how my opinion of Circe changed compared to how I understood her character when reading the Odyssey. In terms of Odysseus, I am not surprised that he continuously placed his values over Circe’s, and ultimately decided to leave the island. Even though they express love for each other, he is not willing to put her over his ultimate mission, and shows that he is not willing to put other’s desires over his own. It was really interesting to see how Circe turned into a compassionate, sympathetic character compared to her image in the Odyssey, when she is only a minor character.

    4. I think that although the traumas Circe experienced at the beginning at the novel were very hurtful, they were crucial to her development and ultimately helped her become the strong figure she was at the end of the novel. In the Greek mythological realm of the gods, in order to be successful or thrive you have to be able to step on others’ toes, doing whatever is necessary to gain power. At the beginning of the novel, Circe was often the one suffering from the other Gods’ doings. But, as time went on, she become more confident in her own abilities and was able to fight back, and eventually have people fear her.

      1. I completely agree. I felt that through the traumas that Circe experienced, she was able to grow into the pivotal figure she embodies at the end of the novel. I think that trauma can influence people in different ways, but she was able to learn and gain enough power to establish her own dominance in the Greek realm, and create a reputation for herself that was feared by many.

    5. I think that the trauma that Circe endures transforms her and actually allows her to grow. Despite her traumatic experiences, she becomes a compassionate person who is able to trust others and create meaningful relationships with others.

    6. I think that Circe reframes Odysseus’ encounter with Circe from Odysseus and his men being tricked by Circe as another example of the struggles they faced on their long journey home as an invasion that she has grown accustomed to. In the Odyssey the initial meeting describes Circe being eager whereas in Circe, she seems to have a been there-done that attitude. Then this eagerness is used to make Circe seem like she is tricking them. I think that this shows how Odysseus overstates his importance because it seems like she has been alone for so long waiting for people to come to her to victimize them. But from Circe’s perspective, this is just another day on her island that she’s been banished to which I think also shows how mortals are not able to understand how immortals experience time.

    7. After reading The Odyssey, Madeline Miller’s Circe takes a very different approach to Odysseus and Circe’s meeting. In The Odyssey, despite the fact that this encounter lasts a whole year, the book spends very little time harping on this meeting. We get no trace of the emotion tied up in their time together, and The Odyssey would have you believe that Odysseus really was just regaining his strength to continue on his journey. In Circe, their time spent together is deeply impactful for both of them. It’s clear that they both truly do enjoy each other’s company and share a special connection. Having coming off of reading The Odyssey so recently, this was a take on the story that surprised me.

    8. Reframing Odysseus’ encounter with Circe from her perspective is absolutely key to this novel. While she is shown as a kind of seductress or villain in the Odyssey, in Circe, she is given much more sympathy to her character. We understand that she is acting out of fear and trauma and protecting herself instead of just acting for cruelty’s sake. We watch as she is forced to reckon with the fact that Odysseus’ men are sizing up her home and her for their own benefit. It is most tragic how easily she makes the transformation of the men into pigs because from this, we understand just how often she is forced to protect herself. My heart goes out to her as she is continually retraumatized by men who force themselves upon her in the name of hospitality. I wonder how Miller might write characters like Penelope, I feel as though they are cut from the same cloth

      1. I agree with your point that seeing Circe’s perspective of her encounter with Odysseus is key because it expands the possibilities of how we interpret this story. This definitely challenges audiences of the Odyssey to look at the epic poem and its themes of masculine kleos with skepticism rather than just blindly accepting Odysseus as the perfect hero. I would also be very interested in seeing how Miller would write Penelope, especially because she is described in the Odyssey as being little more than a wife in mourning. I think there is a lot that can be done with her character, and this new perspective could further question Odysseus’ role and what it means to be a great Greek hero.

    9. Miller’s story is somewhat, I would say, a more modern take on the story of Circe’s encounter with Odysseus. In the original Odyssey, Circe is portrayed as this seductive, selfless witch, and the Odyssey doesn’t discover the reasoning or backstory behind it. However, Miller’s story adds this complexity to the character that was necessary, it showed that she is a misunderstood character, and she uses her powers to survive and coexist in a male-dominated world. Ths

    10. The interaction between Circe and Odysseus made me reconsider a great deal about the Odyssey. Through their first encounter, their conversation is riddled with sexual tension, both of them testing the other. Odysseus is aware of Circe’s spells but stays wary of them despite his immunity, which he is suspicious of. Circe acknowledges the hero’s intelligence and regards Odysseus with a great deal of respect. In the original translation we read, the first interaction between the two is very quick. Circe is not depicted as being entirely cunning or aware of Odysseus’s special traits (i.e. his intelligence, cunning). Odysseus immediately draws his sword in the first translation, whereas in Circe he never has to. Circe offers up herself almost like a peace offering, whereas in Circe there is evidence of strong mutual attraction. Reading Circe really made me question the true intelligence of many of the characters, particularly Penelope. What was Penelope aware of? How long was she planning revenge? What went through her head when she interacted with the suitors? Reading Circe had me wanting more exposition from some of the other characters in the Odyssey that served as little more than tools for Odysseus’s ultimate revenge. The Odyssey was too one-sided, offering mainly Odysseus’s internal monologue and perspective.

    11. Reading this really shines a line on how the gods in the Odyssey, and the Iliad for that matter, have little characterization that is consistent throughout the myths. They have the defining characteristics of their founding myths, and get angry when someone desecrates a temple, but that is about it. Where those deities have almost no consistent character, Circe has dealt with and internalized everything, and been forced to deal with it for centuries of her undying life, which recontextualizes her actions in the Odyssey as more understandable.

    1. In the first half of “Circe,” Circe’s early traumas play a significant role in shaping her development throughout the book. Her experiences with rejection and bullying by her family, the other nymphs, and gods, as well as her heartbreak caused by Glaukos, contribute to her feelings of isolation and loneliness. These events, along with the violence she inflicts on Scylla, which she later regrets, guide her towards a path of introspection and self-healing. As Circe delves deeper into witchcraft, she begins to assert her independence while drawing strength from her past experiences. While she has not yet gotten over these traumas by chapter 21, her growing resilience and determination to shape her own fate definitely foreshadow the potential for healing and transformation in the ending of the book.

      1. I agree with everything said above and I wanted to specifically highlight on the instance where we see a moment of violence which she inflicts on Scylla. This moment is really powerful and serves as an important learning opportunity where Circle begins to realize her true nature and have a deep moment of introspection. This moment also serves as a time to reflect and truly see who she is as a person and where she wants to be. I can really resonate with this episode as its very easy to get caught up in being the victim but when you let things build up they can come out in dangerous and harmful ways.

      2. Andy, these are all great points and you do a great job of tying them back to the overall idea of Circe’s growth and development throughout the novel derived from early traumas and challenges. In my opinion, Miller does a great job of portraying Circe as a regular person compared to the typical hero portrayal. In doing so, Miller allows the reader to appreciate Circe’s struggles and, later on in the novel, appreciate the instances of growth seen. Personally, after reading about her numerous traumas prior to meeting Odysseus and her personal struggles with her immortality, I find it inspiring how Circe takes control of her own fate towards the end of the novel. Although Circe transitions to a mortal being, she makes that decision herself in order to share and spend the rest of her life with Telemachus.

    2. Through reading Miller’s Circe, we have the opportunity to see the encounter between Odysseus and Circe from her perspective, something that is very different from her portrayal in the Odyssey. We learn not only how their first encountered did not end in a woman overwhelmed and outsmarted by the genius of a mortal man, but rather in her eyes more of an agreement between two people of higher being, whether that is being under the watchful eyes of the gods or being immortal themself. Something that also was different than the Odyssey was that Circe is left with a child, which gives her more purpose than any other part of her life so far.

      1. I agree with you, Miller’s Circe tells Circe’s story from her perspective, unlike the Odyssey. This is powerful because in Miller’s book we see how Circe is a complex character and how her background influences who she is and her actions. Additionally, Miller highlights the gaps from the Odyssey and offers a more nuanced portrayal of female agency and desire. Miller’s version changed my understanding of the Odyssey as a whole because of this focus on the feminine aspect that is largely left out of the original text.

      2. I also agree. I like that through Miller’s Circe, we get the story told from a woman’s point of view unlike in the Odyssey. We also get a more complex view of Circe as a figure herself and a more complicated description of the dynamic of her and Odysseus’ relationship. I also feel like Miller’s Circe does a good job of reminding the reader that Circe lets Odysseus into her home out of her kindness, and that it was not her obligation/she wasn’t required to allow him and his men to stay with her.

      3. I totally agree, especially with what you mentioned about how Miller’s version shapes their relationship as more of an understanding & agreement between equals and not just a woman being outsmarted & overpowered by a more powerful man. Miller adds so many more dimensions to Circe’s personality, as well as to the relationship between her and Odysseus. Whereas the Odyssey has their relationship as being more of an exchange of services, so to speak, with a simple explanation that they slept with each other as Odysseus & his men recovered from their ordeals at sea of a year, Miller’s version adds a lot more depth and detail to their relationship, with Circe & Odysseus having deep conversations and a growing respectand love for one another, as sort of equals without some of the more jarring power imbalances we have in the Odyssey.

    3. The traumas that Circe experiences in her early life make her become a person who prioritizes self-preservation. After the sexual violence inflicted on her by the pirates, Circe learns that men views nymphs as nothing more than food to be consumed by them. To prevent herself from being a victim, she decides to attack the men that arrive at her home. Circe enjoys the power she has to protect herself and enact revenge on men who may try to hurt her. This also leads Circe to becoming so independent to the point that she handles giving birth all on her own. As a mother, Circe knows that the only person that can protect her child is her and she is determined to keep him safe from Athena.

      1. I also think another reason that the attacks by the pirates were so affecting is because it shatters her view of humanity. Not only is this a violation of Circe’s body, but it also violates her beliefs. Ever since her encounter with Prometheus, Circe held a fascination for humanity. She heard about Daedalus and believed that all humans could be as great as he was. After the pirates attack her, she is shown the reality of humanity, which isolates her even more, now that she no longer has the arrival of sailors to look forward to.

    4. Circe’s early traumas, including her experiences with bullying, rejection, violence, and sexual assault, affect her development in the second half of the novel in several ways. They cause her to become a more complex character and instill in her numerous personality traits. One way that these traumas impact Circe is by causing her to develop increased resilience and resourcefulness. In spite of the various challenges she faced in her childhood, she was never fully broken, and channeled her experiences into her witchcraft. She then uses her powers to assert her agency in a world that seems to try to subjugate her in every way. Also, her experiences while growing up provide her with more empathy and understanding toward other female characters who suffered in the novel, such as Penelope and Medea.

      1. I absolutely agree with everything you’ve brought up. Circe’s early life is marked by several traumatic experiences that continue to affect her throughout the novel. Her rejection and bullying by her family and other nymphs and gods, her rejection by Glaukos, and her regret over the violence against Skylla all contribute to a deep sense of isolation and loneliness. I think her encounters with the Minotaur and pirates have some of the most significant impact on her development in the second half of the novel. These experiences leave her feeling violated, powerless, and alone. As a result, she becomes more guarded and wary of others, fearing that they will harm her again. Despite the trauma she experiences, Circe demonstrates remarkable resilience and resourcefulness. She learns to channel her pain into her witchcraft and develops her powers to assert her agency in a world that often tries to subjugate her. She also learns to rely on herself and trusts her own instincts, which helps her to navigate the challenges she faces. However, even with her resilience and resourcefulness, Circe is unable to transcend the trauma completely or achieve any kind of healing from it – she continues to carry the weight of her experiences, and her journey is marked by a sense of melancholy and isolation.

    5. Miller’s retelling of the meeting between Circe and Odysseus greatly departs from the original story described in the Odyssey. The Odyssey portrays Circe as a hostile, almost monster-like witch that attacks Odysseus’ crew and then is forced to subjugate herself to Odysseus and provide his crew refuge for a year. Miller’s retelling fundamentally reshapes this narrative, providing an alternate perspective. Odysseus’ crew is not the only ones who have come to Aeaea, before them, as described in the book, countless sailors, pirates, and thieves have invaded the island forcing Circe to defend herself; Odysseus’ crew is no different. Like countless times before, Circe decides to turn the crew into pigs, not only as a matter of habit but also self-preservation. When Odysseus arrives to free his crew, she does not immediately take a position of weakness, instead, she talks him into an impasse, using his crew as a bargaining chip. Miller then goes into immense detail about Circe’s time with Odysseus, and their developing relationship, something the Odyssey glosses over. In general, this encounter makes me second-guess the other stories told within the Odyssey. What if we, say, received Calypso’s perspective, or that of the Cyclops?

      1. I agree that the scene differs significantly in each text. In the Odyssey’s version of the story, we don’t get a lot of nuance as to why Circe decided to turn the crew into pigs and are expected to accept that she is naturally antagonistic. We get that nuance in Miller’s rendition, where Circe turned the crew into pigs to protect herself and her belongings as she has done many times before. The Odyssey’s version of Odysseus’s and Circe meeting, it is very abrupt and doesn’t delve very much into the relationship between the two. Miller elaborates much more on this by having the two share a much more elaborate and meaningful conversation before sleeping together. The conversation the two share also helps their relationship after make more sense, as Circe realizes Odysseus is not the same as other men.

      2. I agree with both Grant and Christian’s points about how Miller’s book gives more insight into Circe’s character and the relationship between Odysseus and Circe. I also really liked Grant’s point that it brings doubt to Odysseus’ narrative. Personally, I think Miller’s book humanizes and gives depth to all the characters, including Odysseus, Penelope, and Telemachus. We talked in class about how Circe is portrayed as a flat, eternally unchanging character in the Odyssey. I think the same can be said for most of the characters, like Penelope who remains loyal to Odysseus even as she struggles to hold off her suitors. Even Odysseus, who undergoes different ordeals and displays his emotions prominently, continues to be a cunning warrior who just wants to get home. Telemachus is arguably the only character who evolves, as it is his coming of age story, but even he does not change very much besides becoming more violent. In Miller’s book, we get to see all of these characters evolve (Odysseus’ descent into violent paranoia, Penelope becoming a witch, Telemachus rejecting the path of being a hero) and can glimpse their thoughts. Miller’s book thus changes the way the reader thinks about the Odyssey’s characters.

  1. Having read the Odyssey and now Circe, I find myself repeatedly drawn to Miller’s portrayal of Telemachus versus the Homeric poet/Wilson’s interpretation. Telemachus is by far my favorite part of the epic, though he is only just learning who he is vis a vis his father Odysseus (who I notoriously dislike for so many reasons that I do not have time to elaborate on here) and doesn’t really contribute much in sheer plot besides serving as a henchman; but hearing about how his complicity in the slaughter of the suitors and the burden of being related to a father like Odysseus affects the adult Telemachus that we meet and hear from in the latter parts of the novel seemed to me like such an interesting development on Millers part to such an underdeveloped relationship in the poem that Wilson can’t really spend too much time elaborating on (mainly because to stay true to her goal the translation needs to sacrifice detail for meter)

  2. Miller retells Circe’s encounter with Odysseus in a different way from the Odyssey. In Miller’s version. This encounter started off rather impersonal, and it was rather tough to figure out when Odysseus had arrived. However, the encounter that ensues portrays the event as more of a dialogue with Circe’s thought illuminating our perspective on what we saw in the Odyssey. It was interesting how both characters were almost playing a game of cat and mouse and trying not to reveal themselves even though they both knew of each other.

  3. I think it’s really interesting to think about Circe’s story in terms of her trauma. Miller does an incredible job of empathizing with Circe and understanding the world through her eyes, and that definitely includes empathizing with her trauma and understanding how her experiences have shaped her worldview. I think the second two questions you proposed are really related in that way, because her trauma pushes her to want those divine and mortal connections, but also creates a barrier between her and anyone else.

  4. A major source of trauma for Circe came from bullying from her family members. Their constant bullying made her feel different from and inferior to them. I think an important moment of healing for Circe was when she stood up to Athena to protect her son. This moment highlights how she embraced her identity as a witch and found her own power. Although she was traumatized by her own family, Circe was determined to be a good mother, which served as a source of healing from her own experiences.

Leave a comment