Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Christopher Brown


Homeric scholarship has a long history, dating back to the 19th century, of elucidating Homeric poetry through examining its kinship structures and how kinship is performed. Of particular note has been the focus on the father-child dynamic both per se and with respect to its widespread use as a prototype for a diverse range of relationships. Agamemnon, for example, can be profitably viewed as a kind of dysfunctional father to the Achaeans, and many of the Odyssey’s characters are implicitly judged based on the extent to which they fill the role of the gentle father (ēpios patēr) in various ways. Central to all of this scholarship, however, has been the essentially structural assumption that kinship is a binary concept. Some people are related; others are not. However, recent anthropology has exploded this idea of ‘pseudo-kinship’, concluding that ‘relatedness’ – kinship as centrally defined by the subject, and not primarily based on genetics or marriage – is a more accurate measure of how kinship actually works than more prescriptive approaches have been.

In light of these conclusions, this project's goal is to expand upon our understanding of how kinship is portrayed in the Homeric poems by taking claims like those of Phoenix more seriously. In a series of studies, I examine how more marginal relationships, those potentially outside of the patrilocal joint family, namely those involving bastards, slaves, and fugitives, function nonetheless as kinship relations. My model for this approach will be the oikos, with the father at its centre. Homeric kinship is portrayed as centripetal, with its various members jockeying for position relative to the patriarch. With this in mind, I focus especially on how my marginal subjects negotiate their position and how their role is portrayed with respect to the patriarch of their oikos.