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(Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan)
The ancient Greek lyric poet Simonides of Keos was the first poet in the Western tradition to take money for poetic composition. From this starting point, Anne Carson launches an exploration, poetic in its own right, of the idea of poetic economy. She offers a reading of certain of Simonides' texts and aligns these with writings of the modern Romanian poet Paul Celan, a Jew and survivor of the Holocaust, whose "economies" of language are notorious. Asking such questions as, What is lost when words are wasted? and Who profits when words are saved? Carson reveals the two poets' striking commonalities.
In Carson's view Simonides and Celan share a similar mentality or disposition toward the world, language and the work of the poet. Economy of the Unlost begins by showing how each of the two poets stands in a state of alienation between two worlds. In Simonides' case, the gift economy of fifth-century b.c. Greece was giving way to one based on money and commodities, while Celan's life spanned pre- and post-Holocaust worlds, and he himself, writing in German, became estranged from his native language. Carson goes on to consider various aspects of the two poets' techniques for coming to grips with the invisible through the visible world. A focus on the genre of the epitaph grants insights into the kinds of exchange the poets envision between the living and the dead. Assessing the impact on Simonidean composition of the material fact of inscription on stone, Carson suggests that a need for brevity influenced the exactitude and clarity of Simonides' style, and proposes a comparison with Celan's interest in the "negative design" of printmaking: both poets, though in different ways, employ a kind of negative image making, cutting away all that is superfluous. This book's juxtaposition of the two poets illuminates their differences--Simonides' fundamental faith in the power of the word, Celan's ultimate despair--as well as their similarities; it provides fertile ground for the virtuosic interplay of Carson's scholarship and her poetic sensibility.
Propertius and the Meaning of Roman Monuments
Throughout its history, the city of Rome has inspired writers to describe its majesty, to situate themselves within its sweeping landscape, and to comment upon its contribution to their own identity. The Roman elegiac poet Propertius was one such author. This final published collection, issued in 16 BCE, has been traditionally read as an abandonment by Propertius of his earlier flippant love poems for a more mature engagement with Roman public life or else a comical send-up of imperial policies as embodied in Rome’s public buildings. The relationship between poet and city is complicated at every turn with the presence in the background of the emperor Augustus, whose sustained artistic patronage of Roman monuments brought about the most pervasive transformation that the cityscape had yet seen. The Elegiac Cityscape explores Propertius’ Rome and the various ways his poetry about the city illuminates the dynamic relationship between one individual and his environment. Combining the approaches of archaeology and literary criticism, Tara S. Welch examines how Propertius’ poems on Roman places scrutinize the monumentalization of various ideological positions in Rome, as they poke and prod Rome’s monuments to see what further meanings they might admit. The result is a poetic book rife with different perspectives on the eternal city, perspectives that often call into question any sleepy or complacent adherence to Rome’s traditional values.
Collected Letters, 1861-1875
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.
Self-Command and Political Speech in Seneca and Petronius
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.
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).
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.