Taking Her Seriously

Penelope and the Plot of Homer's Odyssey
Richard Heitman
An innovative new analysis of the Odyssey's most influential female character


Taking Her Seriously is a reevaluation of Penelope, one of the most universally admired female characters in Western classical literature. Casting her in a new light, Richard Heitman emphasizes the courage, steadfastness, and integrity of this iconic figure while facing potentially tragic decisions.

Homer's treatment of events in Ithaca and the motivations of Penelope throughout the denser books of the Odyssey reveal a complicated, serious, independent, and insightful thinker whose actions are crucial to guaranteeing the well-being of her home and a safe future for her son, and for Odysseus as well.

Through this thematic approach to the text, Penelope comes into focus as a loving wife whose role is far more important than passive fidelity to a wandering husband. Her integrity and wisdom in Odysseus's absence sets the stage for his violent and triumphant return, and secures her place as a female role model in even the most modern of contexts.

Cover Design Credit: Phil Karnezis

Photo Credit: Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, New York

Richard Heitman is Assistant Professor of Classics, Philosophy, and Great Ideas at Carthage College.

Praise / Awards

  • "[Heitman] provides a sensitive critical study of the Odyssey in which he strives to better appreciate the poem by focusing on the familial interactions in Ithaca . . . . Heitman's interpretations . . . are unfailingly clear and thought-provoking. Highly recommended."

  • "An example of a neat and valuable contribution which is both intelligible to non-specialists and inspiring for psychologists and classicists. It demonstrates that research into Homer still is not dated and is capable of extracting ever new exciting ideas from Homer's texts."
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Copyright © 2005, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 144pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03317-1

Add to Cart
  • $25.95 U.S.



  • Homeric Philosophy, Women in Antiquity, Narratology , Philology, Word study: Metis, phronesis,, thelxis, pepnumenos, Family relations in Homer, Dream analysis, Epistemology, Telemachus, pepnumenos, Penelope as a mother