by John T. Kirby
University of Chicago Press, 2000
Paper: 978-0-226-43748-4 | Cloth: 978-0-226-43747-7
Library of Congress Classification PQ4088.K57 2000
Dewey Decimal Classification 850.90091

Precious repositories of ancient wisdom? Musty relics of outmoded culture? Timeless paragons of artistic achievement? Hegemonic tools of intellectual repression? Just what are the classics, anyway, and why do (or should) we still pay so much attention to them? What is the literary canon? What is myth, and how do we use it?

These are some of the questions that gave rise to John Kirby's Secret of the Muses Retold. This new study of works by five twentieth-century Italian writers investigates the abiding influence of the Greek and Roman classics, and their rich legacy in our own day. The result is not only a splendid introduction to contemporary Italian literature, but also a lucid and stimulating meditation on the insights that writers such as Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino have tapped from the wellspring of ancient tradition.

Kirby's book offers an impassioned plea for the recuperation of the humanities in general, and of classical studies in particular. No expertise in Greek, Latin, Italian, or literary theory is presumed, and both traditional and postmodern perspectives are accommodated.