Weaving a Way to Nostos: Odysseus and Feminine Mêtis in the Odyssey

How to Cite

LaFrentz, G. (2021). Weaving a Way to Nostos: Odysseus and Feminine Mêtis in the Odyssey. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.15695/vurj.v11i1.5072


My paper examines the gendered nature of Odysseus’ mêtis, a Greek word describing characteristics of cleverness and intelligence, in Homer’s Odyssey. While Odysseus’ mêtis has been discussed in terms of his storytelling, disguise, and craftsmanship, I contend that in order to fully understand his cleverness, we must place Odysseus’ mêtis in conversation with the mêtis of the crafty women who populate the epic. I discuss weaving as a stereotypically feminine manifestation of mêtis, arguing that Odysseus’ reintegration into his home serves as a metaphorical form of weaving—one that he adapts from the clever women he encounters on his journey home from Troy. Athena serves as the starting point for my discussion of mêtis, and I then turn to Calypso and Circe—two crafty weavers who attempt to ensnare Odysseus on their islands. I also examine Helen, whom Odysseus himself does not meet, but whose weaving is importantly witnessed by Odysseus’ son Telemachus, who later draws upon the craft of weaving in his efforts to help Odysseus restore order in his home. The last woman I present is Penelope, whose clever and prolonged weaving scheme helps her evade marriage as she awaits Odysseus’ return, and whose lead Odysseus follows in his own prolonged reentry into his home. I finally demonstrate the way that Odysseus reintegrates himself into his household through a calculated and metaphorical act of weaving, arguing that it is Odysseus’ willingness to embrace a more feminine model of mêtis embodied by the women he encounters that sets him apart from his fellow male warriors and enables his successful homecoming.


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