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Literature > Ancient and Classical

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Emily Davies Cover

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Emily Davies

Collected Letters, 1861-1875

Emily Davies. Edited by Ann B. Murphy and Deidre Raftery

Sarah Emily Davies (1830–1921) lived and crusaded during a time of profound change for education and women’s rights in England. At the time of her birth, women’s suffrage was scarcely open to discussion, and not one of England’s universities (there were four) admitted women. By the time of her death, not only had the number of universities grown to twelve, all of which were open to women; women had also begun to get the vote. Davies’s own activism in the women’s movement and in the social and educational reform movements of the time culminated in her founding of Girton College, Cambridge University, the first residential college of higher education for women.

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The Empire of the Self

Self-Command and Political Speech in Seneca and Petronius

Christopher Star

In The Empire of the Self, Christopher Star studies the question of how political reality affects the concepts of body, soul, and self. Star argues that during the early Roman Empire the establishment of autocracy and the development of a universal ideal of individual autonomy were mutually enhancing phenomena. The Stoic ideal of individual empire or complete self-command is a major theme of Seneca’s philosophical works. The problematic consequences of this ideal are explored in Seneca’s dramatic and satirical works, as well as in the novel of his contemporary, Petronius. Star examines the rhetorical links between these diverse texts and demonstrates how the idea that imperial speech structures and reveals the self represents a significant point of contact between two writers generally thought to be antagonists.

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Encomium of Ptolemy Philadelphus

Theocritus

Under Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who ruled Egypt in the middle of the third century B.C.E., Alexandria became the brilliant multicultural capital of the Greek world. Theocritus's poem in praise of Philadelphus—at once a Greek king and an Egyptian pharaoh—is the only extended poetic tribute to this extraordinary ruler that survives. Combining the Greek text, an English translation, a full line-by-line commentary, and extensive introductory studies of the poem's historical and literary context, this volume also offers a wide-ranging and far-reaching consideration of the workings and representation of poetic patronage in the Ptolemaic age. In particular, the book explores the subtle and complex links among Theocritus's poem, modes of praise drawn from both Greek and Egyptian traditions, and the subsequent flowering of Latin poetry in the Augustan age.

As the first detailed account of this important poem to show how Theocritus might have drawn on the pharaonic traditions of Egypt as well as earlier Greek poetry, this book affords unique insight into how praise poetry for Ptolemy and his wife may have helped to negotiate the adaptation of Greek culture that changed conditions of the new Hellenistic world. Invaluable for its clear translation and its commentary on genre, dialect, diction, and historical reference in relation to Theocritus's Encomium, the book is also significant for what it reveals about the poem's cultural and social contexts and about Theocritus' devices for addressing his several readerships.

COVER IMAGE: The image on the front cover of this book is incorrectly identified on the jacket flap. The correct caption is: Gold Oktadrachm depicting Ptolemy II and Arsinoe (mid-third century BCE; by permission of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

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Ethnography After Antiquity

Foreign Lands and Peoples in Byzantine Literature

By Anthony Kaldellis

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.

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Euripides and the Tragic Tradition

Ann Norris Michelini

“The most extensive scholarship to appear on this Greek dramatist in many years, Michelini’s work will be important to specialists and students of classical literature, literary theory, and both English and comparative literature.”—Modern Greek Studies

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Euripides, Freud, and the Romance of Belonging

Victoria Pedrick

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.

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Fama and Fiction in Vergil’s Aeneid

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.

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The fayre formez of the Pearl poet

Sandra Pierson. Prior

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.

 

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Feeling History

Lucan, Stoicism, and the Poetics of Passion

Feeling History is a study of apostrophe (i.e., the rhetorical device in which the narrator talks directly to his characters) in Lucan’s Bellum Civile. Through the narrator’s direct addresses, irony, and grotesque imagery, Lucan appears not as a nihilist, but as a character deeply concerned about ethics. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate how Lucan’s style represents a criticism of the Roman approach to history, epic, ethics, and aesthetics. The book’s chief interest lies in the ethical and moral stance that the poet-narrator takes toward his characters and his audience. To this end, Francesca D’Alessandro Behr studies the ways in which the narrator communicates ethical and moral judgments. Lucan’s retelling of this central historical epic triggers in the mind of the reader questions about the validity of the Roman imperial project as a whole. An analysis of selected apostrophes from the Bellum Civile allows us to confront issues that are behind Lucan’s disquieting imagery: how can we square the poet’s Stoic perspectives with his poetically conveyed emotional urgency? Lucan’s approach seems inspired by Aristotle, especially his Poetics, as much as by Stoic philosophy. In Lucan’s aesthetic project, participation and alienation work as phases through which the narrator leads the reader to a desired understanding of his work of art. At the same time, the reader is confronted with the ends and limits of the aesthetic enterprise in general. Lucan’s long-acknowledged political engagement must therefore be connected to his philosophical and aesthetic stance. In the same way that Lucan is unable to break free from the Virgilian model, neither can he develop a defense of morality outside of the Stoic mold. His philosophy is not a crystal ball to read the future or a numbing drug imposing acceptance. The philosophical vision that Lucan finds intellectually and aesthetically compelling does not insulate his characters (and readers) from suffering, nor does it excuse them from wrongdoing. Rather, it obligates them to confront the responsibilities and limits of acting morally in a chaotic world.

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Female Acts in Greek Tragedy

Helene P. Foley

Although Classical Athenian ideology did not permit women to exercise legal, economic, and social autonomy, the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides often represent them as influential social and moral forces in their own right. Scholars have struggled to explain this seeming contradiction. Helene Foley shows how Greek tragedy uses gender relations to explore specific issues in the development of the social, political, and intellectual life in the polis. She investigates three central and problematic areas in which tragic heroines act independently of men: death ritual and lamentation, marriage, and the making of significant ethical choices. Her anthropological approach, together with her literary analysis, allows for an unusually rich context in which to understand gender relations in ancient Greece.

This book examines, for example, the tragic response to legislation regulating family life that may have begun as early as the sixth century. It also draws upon contemporary studies of virtue ethics and upon feminist reconsiderations of the Western ethical tradition. Foley maintains that by viewing public issues through the lens of the family, tragedy asks whether public and private morality can operate on the same terms. Moreover, the plays use women to represent significant moral alternatives. Tragedy thus exploits, reinforces, and questions cultural clichés about women and gender in a fashion that resonates with contemporary Athenian social and political issues.

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