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The Gift of Correspondence in Classical Rome

Friendship in Cicero's Ad Familiares and Seneca's Moral Epistles

Amanda Wilcox

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.

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Gilgamesh among Us

Modern Encounters with the Ancient Epic

by Theodore Ziolkowski

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.

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Give, Eat, and Live

Poems of Avvaiyar

Translated from the Tamil by Thomas H. Pruiksma

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.

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Grafting Helen

The Abduction of the Classical Past

Matthew Gumpert

History is a love story: a tale of desire and jealousy, abandonment and fidelity, abduction and theft, rupture and reconciliation. This contention is central to Grafting Helen, Matthew Gumpert's original and dazzling meditation on Helen of Troy as a crucial anchor for much of Western thought and literature.
Grafting Helen looks at "classicism"—the privileged rhetorical language for describing cultural origins in the West—as a protracted form of cultural embezzlement. No coin in the realm has been more valuable, more circulated, more coveted, or more counterfeited than the one that bears the face of Helen of Troy. Gumpert uncovers Helen as the emblem for the past as something to be stolen, appropriated, imitated, extorted,  and coveted once again.
Tracing the figure of Helen from its classical origins through the Middle Ages, the French Renaissance, and the modern era, Gumpert suggests that the relation of current Western culture to the past is not like the act of coveting; it is the act of coveting, he argues, for it relies on the same strategies, the same defenses, the same denials, and the same delusions.

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Helios

Vol. 34 (2007) through current issue

Helios is a forum for the scholarly synthesis of close readings of philological text with contemporary critical approaches. Articles analyzing Greek and Roman literature and cultural history employ feminist theory, poststructuralism and deconstruction, psychoanalysis, reader-response theory, and current theoretical models.

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Holy Foolishness in Russia

New Perspectives

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Homer the Preclassic

Gregory Nagy

Homer the Preclassic considers the development of the Homeric poems-in particular the Iliad and Odyssey-during the time when they were still part of the oral tradition. Gregory Nagy traces the evolution of rival "Homers" and the different versions of Homeric poetry in this pretextual period, reconstructed over a time frame extending back from the sixth century BCE to the Bronze Age. Accurate in their linguistic detail and surprising in their implications, Nagy's insights conjure the Greeks' nostalgia for the imagined "epic space" of Troy and for the resonances and distortions this mythic past provided to the various Greek constituencies for whom the Homeric poems were so central and definitive.

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Homer the Theologian

Neoplatonist Allegorical Reading and the Growth of the Epic Tradition

Robert Lamberton

Here is the first survey of the surviving evidence for the growth, development, and influence of the Neoplatonist allegorical reading of the Iliad and Odyssey. Professor Lamberton argues that this tradition of reading was to create new demands on subsequent epic and thereby alter permanently the nature of European epic. The Neoplatonist reading was to be decisive in the birth of allegorical epic in late antiquity and forms the background for the next major extension of the epic tradition found in Dante.

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Homeric Effects in Vergil's Narrative

Alessandro Barchiesi

The study of Homeric imitations in Vergil has one of the longest traditions in Western culture, starting from the very moment the Aeneid was circulated. Homeric Effects in Vergil’s Narrative is the first English translation of one of the most important and influential modern studies in this tradition. In this revised and expanded edition, Alessandro Barchiesi advances innovative approaches even as he recuperates significant earlier interpretations, from Servius to G. N. Knauer.

Approaching Homeric allusions in the Aeneid as “narrative effects” rather than glimpses of the creative mind of the author at work, Homeric Effects in Vergil’s Narrative demonstrates how these allusions generate hesitations and questions, as well as insights and guidance, and how they participate in the creation of narrative meaning. The book also examines how layers of competing interpretations in Homer are relevant to the Aeneid, revealing again the richness of the Homeric tradition as a component of meaning in the Aeneid. Finally, Homeric Effects in Vergil’s Narrative goes beyond previous studies of the Aeneid by distinguishing between two forms of Homeric intertextuality: reusing a text as an individual model or as a generic matrix.

For this edition, a new chapter has been added, and in a new afterword the author puts the book in the context of changes in the study of Latin literature and intertextuality.

A masterful work of classical scholarship, Homeric Effects in Vergil’s Narrative also has valuable insights for the wider study of imitation, allusion, intertextuality, epic, and literary theory.

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Homeric Questions

By Gregory Nagy

The "Homeric Question" has vexed Classicists for generations. Was the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey a single individual who created the poems at a particular moment in history? Or does the name "Homer" hide the shaping influence of the epic tradition during a long period of oral composition and transmission? In this innovative investigation, Gregory Nagy applies the insights of comparative linguistics and anthropology to offer a new historical model for understanding how, when, where, and why the Iliad and the Odyssey were ultimately preserved as written texts that could be handed down over two millennia. His model draws on the comparative evidence provided by living oral epic traditions, in which each performance of a song often involves a recomposition of the narrative. This evidence suggests that the written texts emerged from an evolutionary process in which composition, performance, and diffusion interacted to create the epics we know as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Sure to challenge orthodox views and provoke lively debate, Nagy’s book will be essential reading for all students of oral traditions.

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