Eumaeus and Eurycleia in the Deep South
Odyssean Slavery in Sommersby
The Odyssey, and especially the relationship between Odysseus and Eumaeus, was identified by Thomas Clarkson in his Latin prose composition as a seminal text in the representation and discussion of slavery. This chapter examines the prominent role it continues to play in Jon Amiel’s Sommersby (1993), which is a rare Hollywood attempt to address the social crisis precipitated by the end of the Civil War in post-emancipation Tennessee. The film is set at the precise moment that slavery was abolished in the Deep South, but is, for complicated reasons and in complex ways, based on the plot of the Odyssey. The tension between Odysseus and Eumaeus in Sommersby reveals a (for Hollywood) unusually profound set of insights into the moral, emotional and economic ramifications of radical shifts in the relationship between newly emancipated slaves and their former masters.
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