Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


What then are they looking for, our souls that travel/On rotting sea-timbers from one harbor to another?: the presence of classical mythology in contemporary literature of clandestine cross-Mediterranean migration


English Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


Although the raw material on which it draws consists chiefly of urgent present-day realities, the corpus of contemporary Spanish, Moroccan, and Italian literature about cross-Mediterranean clandestine migration teems with allusions to the regions mythological past, and especially to The Odyssey. In this chapter, I focus on the ways in which two recurrent images in this literature and in its corresponding discourses the image of the Straits of Gibraltar and Sicily as cemeteries, and the motif of life-threatening landfall on an inhospitable shore resonate with two key passages from the ur-text of Mediterranean migration The Odyssey, Odysseuss journey to the underworld, and his arrival upon the shores of Schería. In considering what is at stake in such intertextual resonance, I avail myself of Edgar Morins twofold notion that the Mediterranean must be demythologized and re-mythologized to argue that this literature can serve as a seedbed for new conceptions of Mediterranean identity.

Conference Name

17th Annual International Mediterranean Studies Association Congress

Conference Location

Malaga, Spain

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