Samuel Butler, scholar, painter, pioneer photographer, and novelist (including Erewhon and The Way of All Flesh), was one of the less orthodox of Victorian intellectual provocateurs, who confronted powerful orthodoxies such as the Church, the academic establishment, and scientific Darwinism. During the last decade of his productive life (he died in 1902), his main concern became the 'Homeric question'. In his youth, he had been a classical scholar at St John's College, Cambridge; but The Authoress of the Odyssey  is unlike any work of mainstream Victorian classics.
His theory - that the Odyssey was written by a woman and (even more startlingly) by one who configured herself in the epic as the Phaeacian princess, Nausicaa - set him on collision course with all the 'authordoxies' of the stuffy, patriarchal establishment of 'Oxbridge' scholarship. His exposition hesitates (brilliantly? Or accidentally?) in the grey area between closely reasoned argument, eccentric tomfoolery and knowing polemicism. The establishment never could determine whether to take it seriously or as an elaborate spoof of their own methodologies. Certainly, Butler himself never let on what his intentions were
Now, in an age when gender studies and reception theory have a compelling influence on readings of the classical world, it is appropriate to make this book available again. It is a work that continues to challenge, provoke and amuse.With a new introduction by Tim Whitmarsh (himself a former Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge), Reader in Greek Literature at the University of Exeter.