Epic Facework. Self-presentation and social interaction in Homer
by Ruth Scodel
ISBN: 978-1-905125-22-7, hardback, 190 pp, 2008, 45
Homer’s characters are often very far from an unreflecting struggle for status at others’ expense. Rather than being a ‘zero-sum game’, their negotiations can be of an impressive delicacy, designed to protect the ‘face’ of the other. Gifts and visible deference are important measures of honour, but characters also care about what others really feel.
This sensitive study reveals that at the beginnings of (surviving) Greek literature Homer’s audience is expected to appreciate psychology and self-control of a very high order.
Literary analysts, historians, anthropologists and indeed archaeologists will have much to learn here about the general level of sophistication of the historic and prehistoric societies which generated such deeply civilized poetry.

The author
Ruth Scodel is the author of Listening to Homer (2002), Credible Impossibilities: Conventions and Strategies of Verisimilitude in Homer and Greek Tragedy (1999), and many other books and articles, mostly on Greek poetry. She is the co-author with Anja Bettenworth of Whither Quo Vadis? Sienkiewicz’s Novel in Film and Television (2008).
Scodel is D.R. Shackleton Bailey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan. She edited Transactions of the American Philological Association from 1987 to 1991, and is an editor of the series Texte und Kommentare. In 2007 she was President of the American Philological Association.



1. The economy of honor
2. Gifts
3. Managing face
4. Ransom and revenge
5. Apologies
6. Quarrel and embassy
7. Conclusions