Ancient Roman authors are firmly established in the Western canon, and yet the birth of Latin literature was far from inevitable. The cultural flourishing that eventually produced the Latin classics was one of the strangest events in history, as Denis Feeney demonstrates in this bold revision.
Focusing on the figures of Plato, Archimedes, and Caravaggio, The Divine Spark of Syracuse discloses the role that Syracuse, a Greek cultural outpost in Sicily, played in fueling creative energies. Among the topics this book explores are Plato and the allegory of the cave, and the divine spark mentioned in his Seventh Letter. It also considers the machines of Archimedes, including his famous screw, and the variety of siege and antisiege weapons that he developed for the defense of his hometown during the siege of Syracuse during the Second Punic War, including “the hand” (a giant claw), the “burning mirror,” and the catapult. The final chapter offers a look at the artist and roustabout Caravaggio. On the run after yet another street brawl, Caravaggio traveled to Syracuse, where he painted Burial of St. Lucy (Santa Lucia) in 1608. Typical of his late works, the painting is notable for its subdued tones and emotional and psychological delicacy. This captivating book lends clear insight into the links between the sense of place and inspiration in philosophy, mathematics, and art. Rowland is the most learned tour guide we could ask for.
In Epic of the Dispossessed, Robert D. Hamner offers an insightful, well-researched analysis of Omeros, the masterful epic poem by 1992 Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. Rich and various, Omeros is an innovative extension of the epic tradition. Despite Walcott's insistence that he violates the formulaþhe notes his autobiographical presence in the poem and the absence of classical heroic figures and epic battlesþthe poem incorporates fragments of all the definitive characteristics of the genre. Hamner establishes that through its self-reflexive textuality, Omeros complements the time-honored tradition of the epic by giving voice to the marginalized peoples of the New World.
Hamner briefly explains his perception of the epic tradition and its viability in contemporary literature. He examines Walcott's writing career and traces his development of devices, themes, techniques, and a narrative style essential to epic poetry. Although Walcott could not have fully anticipated Omeros, a retrospective view of his writing reveals the consistent accumulation of the skills and broad scope required for such an undertaking. Hamner attempts also to show that Walcott has incorporated into his personal style not only the more obvious aspects of his formal education but also uniquely West Indian cultural material and forms of expression.
Hamner describes Omeros as an epic of the dispossessed because each of its protagonists is a castaway in one sense or another. Regardless of whether their ancestry is traced to the classical Mediterranean, Europe, Africa, or confined to the Americas, they are transplanted individuals whose separate quests all center on the fundamental human need to strike roots in a place where one belongs.
Walcott's vivid, lyrical verse is visually compelling and aurally appealing. He is, however, a richly complex, allusive writer dealing with a wide range of profound human problems. Given the exciting climate of postcolonial and postmodern criticism, Walcott offers students and scholars unparalleled opportunities for challenging, creatively interpretive insights. Epic of the Dispossessed will be a valuable companion to the work that may prove to be Walcott's crowning achievement. The fresh and original Omeros stands on its own merits; nevertheless, it deserves to be examined in light of both Western tradition and its Caribbean context.
In this imaginative and illuminating work, Annabel Patterson traces the origins and meanings of the Aesopian fable, as well as its function in Renaissance culture and subsequently. She shows how the fable worked as a medium of political analysis and communication, especially from or on behalf of the politically powerless. Patterson begins with an analysis of the legendary Life of Aesop, its cultural history and philosophical implications, a topic that involves such widely separated figures as La Fontaine, Hegel, and Vygotsky. The myth’s origin is recovered here in the saving myth of Aesop the Ethiopian, black, ugly, who began as a slave but become both free and influential, a source of political wisdom. She then traces the early modern history of the fable from Caxton, Lydgate, and Henryson through the eighteenth century, focusing on such figures as Spenser, Sidney, Lyly, Shakespeare, and Milton, as well as the lesser-known John Ogilby, Sir Roger L’Estrange, and Samuel Croxall. Patterson discusses the famous fable of The Belly and the Members, which, because it articulated in symbolic terms some of the most intransigent problems in political philosophy and practice, was still going strong as a symbolic text in the mid-nineteenth century, where it was focused on industrial relations by Karl Marx and by George Eliot against electoral reform.
Considering Sappho as a creature of translation and interpretation, a figment whose features have changed with social mores and aesthetics, Joan DeJean constructs a fascinating history of the sexual politics of literary reception. The association of Sappho with female homosexuality has made her a particularly compelling and yet problematic subject of literary speculation; and in the responses of different cultures to the challenge the poet presents, DeJean finds evidence of the standards imposed on female sexuality through the ages. She focuses largely though not exclusively on the French tradition, where the Sapphic presence is especially pervasive. Tracing re-creations of Sappho through translation and fiction from the mid-sixteenth century to the period just prior to World War II, DeJean shows how these renderings reflect the fantasies and anxieties of each writer as well as the mentalité of his or her day.
The prevailing assumption regarding the Victorians’ relationship to ancient Greece is that Greek knowledge constituted an exclusive discourse within elite male domains. Heretical Hellenism: Women Writers, Ancient Greece, and the Victorian Popular Imagination challenges that theory and argues that while the information women received from popular sources was fragmentary and often fostered intellectual insecurities, it was precisely the ineffability of the Greek world refracted through popular sources and reconceived through new fields of study that appealed to women writers’ imaginations.
Examining underconsidered sources such as theater history and popular journals, Shanyn Fiske uncovers the many ways that women acquired knowledge of Greek literature, history, and philosophy without formal classical training. Through discussions of women writers such as Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Jane Harrison, Heretical Hellenism demonstrates that women established the foundations of a heretical challenge to traditional humanist assumptions about the uniformity of classical knowledge and about women’s place in literary history.
Heretical Hellenism provides a historical rationale for a more expansive definition of classical knowledge and offers an interdisciplinary method for understanding the place of classics both in the nineteenth century and in our own time.
In the looming shadow of dictatorship and imminent war, George Seferis and George Katsimbalis welcomed Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell to their homeland. Together, as they spent evenings in tavernas, explored the Peloponnese, and considered the meaning of Greek life and freedom and art, they seemed to be inventing paradise. This blend of memoir, criticism, and storytelling takes readers on a journey into the poetry, friendships, and politics of an extraordinary time.
In the spring of 1900, British archaeologist Arthur Evans began to excavate the palace of Knossos on Crete, bringing ancient Greek legends to life just as a new century dawned amid far-reaching questions about human history, art, and culture. With Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism, Cathy Gere relates the fascinating story of Evans’s excavation and its long-term effects on Western culture. After the World War I left the Enlightenment dream in tatters, the lost paradise that Evans offered in the concrete labyrinth—pacifist and matriarchal, pagan and cosmic—seemed to offer a new way forward for writers, artists, and thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, James Joyce, Giorgio de Chirico, Robert Graves, and Hilda Doolittle.
Assembling a brilliant, talented, and eccentric cast at a moment of tremendous intellectual vitality and wrenching change, Cathy Gere paints an unforgettable portrait of the age of concrete and the birth of modernism.
The works of the second-century Greek satirist Lucian enjoyed a tremendous vogue in the early Renaissance. His Greek prose furnished one of the first texts in the Florentine classroom around 1400, and it aroused as much interest as Plato. At first praised as an eloquent rhetorician, Lucian was soon appreciated for his irreverent wit, which inspired new satirical and paradoxical currents in Renaissance literature.
Until now, no study has attempted to connect the Latin translators and imitators of Lucian with his wider European influence. In Lucian and the Latins, David Marsh describes how Renaissance authors rediscovered the comic writings of Lucian. He traces how Lucianic themes and structures made an essential contribution to European literature beginning with a survey of Latin translations and imitations, which gave new direction to European letters in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Lucianic dialogues of the dead and dialogues of the gods were immensely popular, despite the religious backlash of the sixteenth century. The paradoxical encomium, represented by Lucian's "The Fly" and "The Parasite," inspired so-called serious humanists like Leonardo Bruni and Guarino of Verona. Lucian's "True Story" initiated the genre of the fantastic journey, which enjoyed considerable popularity during the Renaissance age of discovery. Humanist descendants of this work include Thomas More's Utopia and much of Rabelais' Pantagruel.
Lucian and the Latins will attract readers interested in a wide variety of subjects: the classical tradition, the early Italian Renaissance, the origins of modern European literature, and the uses of humor and satire as instruments of cultural critique.
David Marsh is Professor of Italian, Rutgers University.
Departing from conventional views of the pastoral genre as an Arcadian escape from urban sophistication, The Pipes of Pan highlights its genesis in the allusive and polemical literary cultures of Alexandria and Rome. Both cities placed great emphasis upon learned invocation and reformulation of poetic models. The pastoral metaphor provided Theocritus and Vergil with tools for representing the contests and confrontations of poets and genres, the exchange of ideas among poets, and poets' reflections on the efficacy of their works.
Pastoral poetry highlights the didactic relationship of older and younger shepherds, whether as rivals or as patron and successor. As such it is an ideal form for young poets' self-representation vis-à-vis their elders, whose work they simultaneously appropriated and transformed, even as the elder poets were represented in the new texts. This influence is reenacted in every generation: Theocritus vs. his Alexandrian forebears, Vergil vs. Theocritus, Calpurnius vs. Vergil, Nemesianus vs. Vergil and Calpurnius, Petrarch vs. Vergil, Boccaccio vs. Petrarch, Spenser vs. Vergil, along with Chaucer and Milton vs. Spenser.
The Pipes of Pan combines multiple strands of contemporary intertextual theory with reception aesthetics and Harold Bloom's theory of intersubjective conflict between generations of poets. It also provides one of the first systematic studies of intertextual and intersubjective dynamics within a whole genre.
This work will be of interest to classicists, students of literary theory, comparative literature, medieval and Renaissance literature, Italian humanism, and English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. All texts are translated.
Thomas Hubbard is Associate Professor of Classics, University of Texas at Austin.
Early twentieth-century Russia witnessed a revival of the dithyramb, a poetic form of verse and dance that ancient Greeks performed to summon Dionysus. The Russian Revival of the Dithyramb offers a fascinating recounting of this resurrection and traces the form’s surprising influence on Russian identity and art in the work of artists, writers, and musicians as varied as Aleksandr Blok, Andrei Bely, Aleksei Remizov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Igor Stravinksy.
Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy and Viacheslav Ivanov’s treatise in response, “The Hellenic Religion of the Suffering God,” have been considered the foundation of the dithyramb revival, but Katherine Lahti shows Erwin Rohde’s Psyche: The Cult of Souls and the Belief in Immortality among the Greeks also to have played a significant role.
Lahti’s wide-ranging and expertly curated survey of art, music, and letters includes the poetry and plays of the Symbolists and Futurists, with special attention to The Fairground Booth and Vladimir Mayakovsky: A Tragedy; the theater of Ozarovsky, Meyerhold, and Evreinov; dancing by Isadora Duncan, Nijinsky, and Fokine; and Matisse’s canvas The Dance.
Lahti follows the persistence of the dithyramb’s popularity after 1917, when it enjoyed a special place in Russian culture during the first years after the Bolshevik Revolution. Demonstrating the influence of the dithyramb on the development of Russian avant-garde culture, this book reshapes our understanding of an extraordinarily dynamic period in Russian art and thought.
In Sappho in Early Modern England, Harriette Andreadis examines public and private expressions of female same-sex sexuality in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Before the language of modern sexual identities developed, a variety of discourses in both literary and extraliterary texts began to form a lexicon of female intimacy. Looking at accounts of non-normative female sexualities in travel narratives, anatomies, and even marital advice books, Andreadis outlines the vernacular through which a female same-sex erotics first entered verbal consciousness. She finds that "respectable" women of the middle classes and aristocracy who did not wish to identify themselves as sexually transgressive developed new vocabularies to describe their desires; women that we might call bisexual or lesbian, referred to in their day as tribades, fricatrices, or "rubsters," emerged in erotic discourses that allowed them to acknowledge their sexuality and still evade disapproval.
Sappho Is Burning
Page duBois University of Chicago Press, 1995 Library of Congress PA4409.D8 1995 | Dewey Decimal 884.01
To know all we know about Sappho is to know little. Her poetry, dating from the seventh century B.C.E., comes to us in fragments, her biography as speculation. How is it then, Page duBois asks, that this poet has come to signify so much? Sappho Is Burning offers a new reading of this archaic lesbian poet that acknowledges the poet's distance and difference from us and stresses Sappho's inassimilability into our narratives about the Greeks, literary history, philosophy, the history of sexuality, the psychoanalytic subject.
In Sappho is Burning, duBois reads Sappho as a disruptive figure at the very origin of our story of Western civilization. Sappho is beyond contemporary categories, inhabiting a space outside of reductively linear accounts of our common history. She is a woman, but also an aristocrat, a Greek, but one turned toward Asia, a poet who writes as a philosopher before philosophy, a writer who speaks of sexuality that can be identified neither with Michel Foucault's account of Greek sexuality, nor with many versions of contemporary lesbian sexuality. She is named as the tenth muse, yet the nine books of her poetry survive only in fragments. She disorients, troubles, undoes many certitudes in the history of poetry, the history of philosophy, the history of sexuality. DuBois argues that we need to read Sappho again.
From the theatrical stage to the literary salon, the figure of Sappho—the ancient poet and inspiring icon of feminine creativity—played a major role in the intertwining histories of improvisation, text, and performance throughout the nineteenth century. Exploring the connections between operatic and poetic improvisation in Italy and beyond, Singing Sappho combines earwitness accounts of famous female improviser-virtuosi with erudite analysis of musical and literary practices. Melina Esse demonstrates that performance played a much larger role in conceptions of musical authorship than previously recognized, arguing that discourses of spontaneity—specifically those surrounding the improvvisatrice, or female poetic improviser—were paradoxically used to carve out a new authority for opera composers just as improvisation itself was falling into decline. With this novel and nuanced book, Esse persuasively reclaims the agency of performers and their crucial role in constituting Italian opera as a genre in the nineteenth century.
Tragic Effects: Ethics and Tragedy in the Age of Translation confronts the peculiar fascination with Greek tragedy as it shapes the German intellectual tradition, with particular focus on the often controversial practice of translating the Greeks. Whereas the tradition of emulating classical ideals in German intellectual life has generally emerged from the impulse to identify with models, the challenge of translating the Greeks underscores the linguistic and historical discontinuities inherent in the recourse to ancient material and inscribes that experience of disruption as fundamental to modernity.
Friedrich Hölderlin’s translations are a case in point. Regarded in his own time as the work of a madman, his renditions of Sophoclean tragedy intensify dramatic effect with the unsettling experience of familiar language slipping its moorings. His attention to marking the distances between ancient source text and modern translation has granted his Oedipus and Antigone a distinct longevity as objects of discussion, adaptation, and even retranslation. Cited by Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Bertolt Brecht, and others, Hölderlin’s Sophocles project follows a path both marked by various contexts and tinged by persistent quandaries of untranslatability.
Tragedy has long functioned as a cornerstone for questions about ethical life. By placing emphasis on processes of translation and adaptation, however, Tragic Effects approaches the question of ethics from a perspective informed by recent discourse in translation studies. Reconstructing an ancient text in this context requires negotiating the difficult tension between comprehending the distant past and preserving its radical singularity.
In this groundbreaking work, Patrice D. Rankine asserts that the classics need not be a mark of Eurocentrism, as they have long been considered. Instead, the classical tradition can be part of a self-conscious, prideful approach to African American culture, esthetics, and identity. Ulysses in Black demonstrates that, similar to their white counterparts, African American authors have been students of classical languages, literature, and mythologies by such writers as Homer, Euripides, and Seneca.
Ulysses in Black closely analyzes classical themes (the nature of love and its relationship to the social, Dionysus in myth as a parallel to the black protagonist in the American scene, misplaced Ulyssean manhood) as seen in the works of such African American writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, and Countee Cullen. Rankine finds that the merging of a black esthetic with the classics—contrary to expectations throughout American culture—has often been a radical addressing of concerns including violence against blacks, racism, and oppression. Ultimately, this unique study of black classicism becomes an exploration of America’s broader cultural integrity, one that is inclusive and historic.