Philoctete’s Healing: Echoes of Dante’s Purgatorio in Walcott’s Omeros


  • Pamela Beattie University of Louisville
  • Simona Bertacco University of Louisville


Parole chiave:

Walcott’s Omeros, Dante’s Purgatorio, Philoctetes, Greek mythology, Colonial WoundM, Postcolonial Healing


A complex reading adventure is the one awaiting the reader of Omeros, a book-length poem published by Derek Walcott in 1990 and, with a title reminiscent of the Greek poet par excellence, an ideal text to talk about re-writings and re-readings of the Western literary tradition.  As readers, we enter Omeros expecting a re-writing of the Odyssey. We find, instead, a text that recalls, in its structure, themes and prosody, Dante’s Commedia, in particular, the Purgatorio.

In our reading of Walcott alongside with Dante, we will concentrate on the character of Philoctete with whom Omeros begins and on the theme of healing that he embodies. While Philoctetes is a minor character in Homer’s Odyssey, Walcott’s appropriation of the Greek character in Omeros is enhanced by his reading of Dante. The theme of healing is pervasive in Walcott’s Omeros, but it is even more emblematic in Dante’s vision of repentance and salvation in the second cantica of his Commedia: the Purgatorio. Interestingly, in Walcott’s “postcolonial Purgatory,” Philoctete remains a minor character and is not turned into a postcolonial hero.

Our analysis will focus on the theme of healing, on the vision of history that is unlocked through a comparison between the authors’ worlds, and on Dante’s and Walcott’s creative use of terza rima, the aspect of the poems that – before anything else – brings them together.


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Biografie autore

Pamela Beattie, University of Louisville

Pamela Beattie is Associate Professor of Medieval Studies in the Department of Comparative Humanities at the University of Louisville and a specialist in the history of medieval religion and culture. She is co-editor of Translation and the Global Humanities, a special issue of the New Centennial Review (2016) and author of the Latin critical edition and study of Ramon Llull's Llibre contra Anticrist in the Raimundi Lulli Opera Latina 36, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis (2015).

Simona Bertacco, University of Louisville

Simona Bertacco is Associate Professor of Postcolonial Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in Humanities at the University of Louisville. Her fields of research are: postcolonial literatures, gender studies and translation studies. She is the editor of Language and Translation in Postcolonial Literatures (Routledge, 2014); the co-editor of Textus: Postcolonial Crimes: Crime Fiction and the Other (2014), and of the special issue of The New Centennial Review: Translation and the Global Humanities (16:1, 2016).


2017-11-28 — Aggiornato il 2022-10-17

Come citare

Beattie, Pamela, e Simona Bertacco. 2022. «Philoctete’s Healing: Echoes of Dante’s Purgatorio in Walcott’s Omeros». Altre Modernità, n. 18 (ottobre):84-105.



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