Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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How can I find peer-reviewed articles on The Odyssey that reference the theme of heroism?

Expert Answers

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The Odyssey, needless to say, is a classic that has been studied for centuries.  There is no shortage of scholarly work that has been published on Homer’s epic of Odysseus/Ulysses and his ten-year journey home to his beautiful wife Penelope and now-grown son Telemachus.  It is entirely possible -- and it is surprising that university librarians have not been able to assist a student seeking help locating sources -- that the use of the phrase “peer reviewed” has confused people.  While the definition of a scholarly work is one that has been submitted for review by one’s professional peers, many scholarly articles are not subjected to that process.  Rather, the individual scholar qualifies his or her research on the basis of the primary sources utilized in preparing the manuscript and the scholar’s own academic bona fides.  Peer-reviewed articles are far more prevalent in the scientific and medical fields, where publication in learned journals is more likely to, and sometimes involves directly, a review of the manuscripts by other professionals or scholars.  In the social sciences, that is not always the case. 

With the world of literature, it may be difficult to always know whether an article published in a scholarly journal has been reviewed.  Usually, the author(s) will include a note with the article acknowledging the assistance of colleagues in reviewing earlier drafts of the manuscript, but, again, an individual’s academic qualifications and listing of sources and foot- or endnotes is all the reader has to go on. 

In researching scholarly analysis of The Odyssey, including specific themes like heroism, a very good place to begin is with Kent State University’s online library at  If one enters the words “homer odyssey and heroism” in the search box on the left-hand side of the screen, one will be linked to a series of scholarly articles that should prove helpful, including Darrell Dobbs’ article “Reckless Rationalism and Heroic Reverence in Homer’s Odyssey” (The American Political Science Association Review, vol. 81, no. 2, June 1987).  Similarly, the same process will lead to references to scholarly books on the appropriate topic, including Cedric H. Whitman’s Homer and the Heroic Tradition (Harvard University Press, 1958).

In short, by switching the terminology used in approaching librarians from “peer reviewed” to “scholarly,” a student will be able to locate the material he or she needs. 

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