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Foreign Lands and Peoples in Byzantine Literature
Although Greek and Roman authors wrote ethnographic texts describing foreign cultures, ethnography seems to disappear from Byzantine literature after the seventh century C.E.—a perplexing exception for a culture so strongly self-identified with the Roman empire. Yet the Byzantines, geographically located at the heart of the upheavals that led from the ancient to the modern world, had abundant and sophisticated knowledge of the cultures with which they struggled and bargained. Ethnography After Antiquity examines both the instances and omissions of Byzantine ethnography, exploring the political and religious motivations for writing (or not writing) about other peoples.
Through the ethnographies embedded in classical histories, military manuals, Constantine VII's De administrando imperio, and religious literature, Anthony Kaldellis shows Byzantine authors using accounts of foreign cultures as vehicles to critique their own state or to demonstrate Romano-Christian superiority over Islam. He comes to the startling conclusion that the Byzantines did not view cultural differences through a purely theological prism: their Roman identity, rather than their orthodoxy, was the vital distinction from cultures they considered heretic and barbarian. Filling in the previously unexplained gap between antiquity and the resurgence of ethnography in the late Byzantine period, Ethnography After Antiquity offers new perspective on how Byzantium positioned itself with and against the dramatically shifting world.
Freud's interpretation of the ancient legend of Oedipus—as formulated in Sophocles' tragic drama—is among the most widely known concepts of psychoanalysis. Euripides' Ion, however, presents a more complex version of the development of personal identity. Here, the discovery of family origins is a process in which parent and child both take part as distinct agents driven by their own impulses of violence and desire. Euripides, Freud, and the Romance of Belonging studies the construction of identity and the origins of the primal trauma in two texts, the Ion and Freud’s case history of the Wolf Man. Victoria Pedrick challenges the conventional psychoanalytic theory of the development of the individual within the family, presenting instead a richer and more complex economy of exchange between the parent and the child. She provides a new perspective on Freud's appropriation of ancient texts and moves beyond the familiar reunion in Oedipus to the more nuanced scene of abandonment present in Ion. Her parallel investigation of these texts suggests that contemporary culture remains preoccupied by the problems of the past in the determination of identity. Pedrick's fresh perspectives on both texts as well as on their relationship to each other shed new light on two foundational moments in the intellectual development of the West: Greek tragedy and Freudian psychoanalysis.
What does it mean to “know” what a work of fiction tells us? In Vergil’s Aeneid, the promise and uncertainty of fama convey this challenge. Expansive and flexible, the Latin word fama can mean “fame,” long-lasting “tradition,” and useful “news,” but also ephemeral “rumor” and disruptive “scandal.” Fama is personified as a horrifying winged goddess who reports the truth while keeping an equally tight grip on what’s distorted or made up. Fama reflects the ways talk—or epic song—may merge past and present, human and divine, things remembered and things imagined. Most importantly, fama marks the epic’s power to bring its story world into our own. The cognitive dynamics of metaphor share in this power, blending the Aeneid’s poetic authority with the imagined force of the gods. Characters and readers are encouraged—even impelled—to seek divine order amidst unsettling words and visions by linking new experiences with existing knowledge. Transformative moments of recognition set the perceptual stage both for the gods’ commands and for the epic’s persuasive efficacy, for pietas (remembrance of ritual and social obligations) and furor (madness). Antonia Syson’s sensitive close readings offer fresh insights into questions of fictive knowledge and collective memory in the Aeneid. These perspectives invite readers to reconsider some of the epistemological premises underlying inquiry into ancient cultures. Drawing comparisons with the nineteenth-century English novel, Syson highlights continuities between two narrative genres whose cultural contributions and rhetorical claims have often seemed sharply opposed.
This book differs from most previous studies of the Pearl poet by treating all of his works as a whole. Prior’s purpose is to identify the underlying poetics of this major body of English poetry. Drawing on both the visual imagery of medieval art (the study includes 18 full-page illustrations) and the verbal imagery of the Bible and other literary sources, Prior shows how the poet’s "fayre formez" are the result of a coherent and self-conscious view of the artist’s craft.
Odysseus in Ancient Thought
Praise for Silvia Montiglio "[A] brilliant and important book. . . . " ---Journal of Religion, on Silence in the Land of Logos "[A]n invigorating reevaluation of both the ancient symbolic landscape and our preconceptions of it." ---American Journal of Philology, on Wandering in Ancient Greek Culture Best known for his adventures during his homeward journey as narrated in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus remained a major figure and a source of inspiration in later literature, from Greek tragedy to Dante's Inferno to Joyce's Ulysses. Less commonly known, but equally interesting, are Odysseus' "wanderings" in ancient philosophy: Odysseus becomes a model of wisdom for Socrates and his followers, Cynics and Stoics, as well as for later Platonic thinkers. From Villain to Hero: Odysseus in Ancient Thought follows these wanderings in the world of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, retracing the steps that led the cunning hero of Homeric epic and the villain of Attic tragedy to become a paradigm of the wise man. From Villain to Hero explores the reception of Odysseus in philosophy, a subject that so far has been treated only in tangential or limited ways. Diverging from previous studies, Montiglio outlines the philosophers' Odysseus across the spectrum, from the Socratics to the Middle Platonists. By the early centuries CE, Odysseus' credentials as a wise man are firmly established, and the start of Odysseus' rehabilitation by philosophers challenges current perceptions of him as a villain. More than merely a study in ancient philosophy, From Villain to Hero seeks to understand the articulations between philosophical readings of Odysseus and nonphilosophical ones, with an eye to the larger cultural contexts of both. While this book is the work of a classicist, it will also be of interest to students of philosophy, comparative literature, and reception studies.
Friendship in Cicero's Ad Familiares and Seneca's Moral Epistles
Amanda Wilcox offers an innovative approach to two major collections of Roman letters—Cicero’s Ad Familiares and Seneca’s Moral Epistles—informed by modern cross-cultural theories of gift-giving.
By viewing letters and the practice of correspondence as a species of gift exchange, Wilcox provides a nuanced analysis of neglected and misunderstood aspects of Roman epistolary rhetoric and the social dynamics of friendship in Cicero’s correspondence. Turning to Seneca, she shows that he both inherited and reacted against Cicero’s euphemistic rhetoric and social practices, and she analyzes how Seneca transformed the rhetoric of his own letters from an instrument of social negotiation into an idiom for ethical philosophy and self-reflection. Though Cicero and Seneca are often viewed as a study in contrasts, Wilcox extensively compares their letters, underscoring Cicero’s significant influence on Seneca as a prose stylist, philosopher, and public figure.
Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic
The world's oldest work of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh recounts the adventures of the semimythical Sumerian king of Uruk and his ultimately futile quest for immortality after the death of his friend and companion, Enkidu, a wildman sent by the gods. Gilgamesh was deified by the Sumerians around 2500 BCE, and his tale as we know it today was codified in cuneiform tablets around 1750 BCE and continued to influence ancient cultures-whether in specific incidents like a world-consuming flood or in its quest structure-into Roman times. The epic was, however, largely forgotten, until the cuneiform tablets were rediscovered in 1872 in the British Museum's collection of recently unearthed Mesopotamian artifacts. In the decades that followed its translation into modern languages, the Epic of Gilgamesh has become a point of reference throughout Western culture.
In Gilgamesh among Us, Theodore Ziolkowski explores the surprising legacy of the poem and its hero, as well as the epic's continuing influence in modern letters and arts. This influence extends from Carl Gustav Jung and Rainer Maria Rilke's early embrace of the epic's significance-"Gilgamesh is tremendous!" Rilke wrote to his publisher's wife after reading it-to its appropriation since World War II in contexts as disparate as operas and paintings, the poetry of Charles Olson and Louis Zukofsky, novels by John Gardner and Philip Roth, and episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Ziolkowski sees fascination with Gilgamesh as a reflection of eternal spiritual values-love, friendship, courage, and the fear and acceptance of death. Noted writers, musicians, and artists from Sweden to Spain, from the United States to Australia, have adapted the story in ways that meet the social and artistic trends of the times. The spirit of this capacious hero has absorbed the losses felt in the immediate postwar period and been infused with the excitement and optimism of movements for gay rights, feminism, and environmental consciousness. Gilgamesh is at once a seismograph of shifts in Western history and culture and a testament to the verities and values of the ancient epic.
Poems of Avvaiyar
Give, Eat, and Live is a selection of poems translated from the 12th century Tamil poet Avvaiyar, arguably one of the most important female poets in Tamil's two-thousand-and-five-hundred years of literary history, and certainly one of the best known, of any gender. Although people across the state of Tamil Nadu know many of her works by heart, she has received little attention outside India, owing largely to the lack of decent translations. The one comprehensive work in English, Avvaiyar, a great Tamil poetess, by C. Rajagopalachari (Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1971), has long since been out of print and renders Avvaiyar's poems in accurate but wooden translations. This book, by contrast, seeks to render her finest songs in a supple and poetically charged English that allows both her intellect and poetry to shine.
The Abduction of the Classical Past