Scandinavian Studies

Northern Scholars Lecture: Dr Eric Cullhed

About the lecture

By Dr Eric Cullhed...

Odysseus bursts into tears first at lunch and then again at dinner while listening to songs about the Trojan War among the Phaeacians. Scholars no longer take issue with the repetitive structure of these two scenes in the Odyssey (8.83–95 and 521–34), nor do they reject their psychological verisimilitude, and yet there appears to be no consensus on how to characterize the emotion that the poet implicitly attributes to the hero. I reject the most common interpretative position since antiquity, that Odysseus is suddenly struck with compassion for his Trojan victims.

I also find it hard to agree with the more recent suggestions that Odysseus is experiencing a PTSD-reaction, that he is moved to tears by the aesthetic merit of the musical performance, that his tears issue from the encounter with his own self as inscribed in text/history/cultural memory, or that he is shedding crocodile tears. A revisit to earlier artistic and scholarly engagements with this scene (Virgil, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Fraenkel, Schadewaldt and Mattes) prompts me to reanalyse the relationship between weeping, loss and suffering but also affiliative attachment and values in the Odyssey. I conclude that the particular object of Odysseus’ emotion is the public celebration of his own social self, apprehended as precious and profoundly important to him.

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Watch Dr Eric Cullhed's short video 'Presentation for Northern Scholars Lecture' on Youtube 

About the speaker

Dr Eric Cullhed
Dr Eric Cullhed

Eric Cullhed (born 1985) is Associate Professor of Greek at Uppsala University and Pro Futura research fellow at the Swedish collegium for Advanced Study. He specializes in the history ancient and medieval Greek scholarship and the philosophy and psychology of values. 

About the Northern Scholars 

The Northern Scholars Scheme was established at the University of Edinburgh in 1956.

Its role is to foster co-operation between scholars of Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and colleagues in the University of Edinburgh.

Mutual areas of interest include aspects of linguistics, and historical and other cultural studies which are common to these countries and to Scotland. 

Each year, the Northern Scholars Scheme Committee sponsors visits by scholars of the member countries to Edinburgh, during which time they give departmental seminars and public lectures.

Find out more about the Northern Scholars

Are you interested in Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh?

We are the only university in Scotland, and one of only two in the UK, to offer undergraduate honours programmes in Scandinavian Studies, enabling you to learn modern Danish, Swedish or Norwegian in the context of Scandinavian culture, past and present. We also welcome candidates for postgraduate research degrees (MSc by Research and PhD) in various aspects of Nordic languages, literature, history, culture and society.

Find out more about Scandinavian Studies at Edinburgh 

Related links

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May 26 2021 -

Northern Scholars Lecture: Dr Eric Cullhed

'Odysseus’ Tears and the Psychology of Weeping'. A free public lecture by guest speaker Dr Eric Cullhed (Uppsala University). 

Online via Zoom