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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.
In this provocative book, Pietro Pucci explores what he sees as Euripides's revolutionary literary art. While scholars have long pointed to subversive elements in Euripides’s plays, Pucci goes a step further in identifying a Euripidean program of enlightened thought enacted through carefully wrought textual strategies. The driving force behind this program is Euripides’s desire to subvert the traditional anthropomorphic view of the Greek gods—a belief system that in his view strips human beings of their independence and ability to act wisely and justly. Instead of fatuous religious beliefs, Athenians need the wisdom and the strength to navigate the challenges and difficulties of life.
Throughout his lifetime, Euripides found himself the target of intense criticism and ridicule. He was accused of promoting new ideas that were considered destructive. Like his contemporary, Socrates, he was considered a corrupting influence. No wonder, then, that Euripides had to carry out his revolution "under cover." Pucci lays out the various ways the playwright skillfully inserted his philosophical principles into the text through innovative strategies of plot development, language and composition, and production techniques that subverted the traditionally staged anthropomorphic gods.
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.
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.
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.
In the early Roman Empire a new literary genre began to flourish, mainly in the Greek world: prose fiction, or romance. Broadly defined as a love story that offers adventure and a romantic vision of life, this form of literature emerged long after the other genres and, until recently, seemed hardly worthy of critical attention. Here B. P. Reardon addresses the growing interest in ancient fiction by providing a literary and cultural framework in which to understand Greek romance, and by demonstrating its importance as an artistic and social phenomenon. Beginning with a discussion of Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe, Reardon sets out the generic characteristics of the romance. He then moves through a wide range of works, including those of Longus and Heliodorus, and reveals their sophistication in terms of social observation, technique within a convention, and the stance adopted by the authors toward their own creations. Although antiquity left behind little discussion of the genre, Reardon shows how romance can be assessed within its time period by considering the practice of narrative in other Greek literature and the concept of fiction in antiquity.
Originally published in 1991.
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