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The fifteenth-century scholar and Augustinian friar John Capgrave took as his subject the virgin martyr Katherine of Alexandria, who was an anomalous cultural icon, a scholar, and a sovereign whose story unsettled traditional gender stereotypes yet was widely popular throughout Western Europe. Capgrave’s Life of Saint Katherine of Alexandria (ca. 1445) stands out among the hundreds of surviving vernacular and Latin narrations about the saint by its intricate plotting, its moral complexity, its obtrusive Chaucerian narrator, and its attention to psychology, history, and theology. The Life of Saint Katherine is a bold literary experiment that transforms the genre of the saint’s life by infusing it with conventions and techniques more often associated with chronicles, mystery plays, fabliaux, and romances. In Capgrave’s hands, Katherine emerges as a sensitive and studious young woman torn between social responsibilities and personal desires. Her story unfolds in a vividly realized world of political turmoil and religious repression that, as Capgrave’s readers were bound to suspect, had everything to do with the England they inhabited and its recent past. Winstead’s translation—the first into idiomatic modern English—brings to life Capgrave’s sharply drawn characters, compelling plot, and complex, unsettling moral. Its promotion of an informed, intellectualized Christianity during a period known for censorship and repression illuminates the struggle over the definition of orthodoxy that was excited by the perceived threat of Lollard heresy during the fifteenth century. This volume also includes an appendix with passages of Capgrave's original Middle English and literal translations into modern English, providing a valuable tool for teachers and students.
Literature and Identity in TheGolden Ass of Apuleius is the first English translation of a work published in 2007 as Le Metamorfosi di Apuleio: Letteratura e identità, by Luca Graverini. The second-century CE novel The Golden Ass, or Metamorphoses, has proven to be both captivating and highly entertaining to the modern reader, but the text also presents the critic with a vast array of interpretive possibilities. In fact, there is little consensus among scholars on the fundamental significance of Apuleius’ novel: is it simply a form of narrative entertainment, or does it represent some sort of religious or philosophical propaganda? Can it be interpreted as a satire of fatuous belief in otherworldly powers, or is it an utterly aporetic text? Graverini begins by setting The Golden Ass in its ancient literary context. Apuleius’ playful defiance of generic conventions represents a substantial literary innovation, but he is also taking part in a tradition of narrative and satirical literature that typically featured experimentation with genre. The interplay of generic elements found in The Golden Ass reflects the complexity of the author’s cultural identity: Apuleius was a Roman North African who had traveled widely throughout the Mediterranean and enjoyed an extensive education in both Greek and Latin. Graverini concludes with a study of the complex interaction of these three dimensions of Apuleius’ identity (African, Roman, and Greek), and investigates what the narrative can tell us about the culture of its readership. These cultural interactions affirm that The Golden Ass aims to delight its readers as well as to exhort them to religion and philosophy. Ben Lee’s superb new translation will make Graverini's groundbreaking study available to a much wider scholarly readership.
The Literature of Cult and Conspiracy
Fascination with the arcane is a driving force in this comprehensive survey of conspiracy fiction. Theodore Ziolkowski traces the evolution of cults, orders, lodges, secret societies, and conspiracies through various literary manifestations—drama, romance, epic, novel, opera—down to the thrillers of the twenty-first century. Lure of the Arcane considers Euripides’s Bacchae, Andreae’s Chymical Wedding, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, among other seminal works. Mimicking the genre’s quest-driven narrative arc, the reader searches for the significance of conspiracy fiction and is rewarded with the author’s cogent reflections in the final chapter. After much investigation, Ziolkowski reinforces Umberto Eco’s notion that the most powerful secret, the magnetic center of conspiracy fiction, is in fact “a secret without content.”
Epistolary Narrative and Desire in Ovid's Heroides
In the Heroides, the Roman poet Ovid wittily plucks fifteen abandoned heroines from ancient myth and literature and creates the fiction that each woman writes a letter to the hero who left her behind. But in giving voice to these heroines, is Ovid writing like a woman, or writing "Woman" like a man?
Using feminist and psychoanalytic approaches to examine the "female voice" in the Heroides, Sara H. Lindheim closely reads these fictive letters in which the women seemingly tell their own stories. She points out that in Ovid’s verse epistles all the women represent themselves in a strikingly similar and disjointed fashion. Lindheim turns to Lacanian theory of desire to explain these curious and hauntingly repetitive representations of the heroines in the "female voice." Lindheim’s approach illuminates what these poems reveal about both masculine and feminine constructions of the feminine
Essays in Search of Ancient and Medieval Authors
Ancient and medieval literary texts often call attention to their existence as physical objects. Shane Butler helps us to understand why. Arguing that writing has always been as much a material struggle as an intellectual one, The Matter of the Page offers timely lessons for the digital age about how creativity works and why literature moves us.
Butler begins with some considerations about the materiality of the literary text, both as a process (the draft) and a product (the book), and he traces the curious history of “the page” from scroll to manuscript codex to printed book and beyond. He then offers a series of unforgettable portraits of authors at work: Thucydides struggling to describe his own diseased body; Vergil ready to burn an epic poem he could not finish; Lucretius wrestling with words even as he fights the madness that will drive him to suicide; Cicero mesmerized by the thought of erasing his entire career; Seneca plumbing the depths of the soul in the wax of his tablets; and Dhuoda, who sees the book she writes as a door, a tunnel, a womb. Butler reveals how the work of writing transformed each of these authors into his or her own first reader, and he explains what this metamorphosis teaches us about how we too should read.
All Greek and Latin quotations are translated into English and technical matters are carefully explained for general readers, with scholarly details in the notes.
Le mythe de l’infanticide Médée a toujours connu une fortune littéraire et la littérature féminine contemporaine ne fait pas exception. L’analyse comparée de huit textes de femmes de divers horizons tente de cerner les enjeux de cette figure irréductible pour une pensée féministe actuelle sur la maternité, le sujet et l’écriture mythique.
En s’interrogeant sur la pertinence particulière de la tragédie d’Euripide aux reprises médéennes, explicites ou sous-entendues, des femmes, cette étude comparée se penche sur des textes du théâtre de Marie Cardinal, de Deborah Porter, de Franca Rame et de Cherríe Moraga, et des romans de Monique Bosco, de Christa Wolf, de Bessora et de Marie-Célie Agnant. À travers ses incarnations transculturelles, le mythe de Médée éclaire les affres de l’exil et de l’exclusion, ainsi que certaines visions du maternel qui préféreraient peut-être rester dans l’ombre de nos présuppositions et de nos règles sociales. Bien qu’il n’y ait pas plus monstrueux ou fou que l’acte infanticide, Médée, elle, n’est pas monstre, pas folle, mais lucide, humaine à part entière, comme la voulait Euripide, alors qu’elle s’en prend à ses enfants, à la culture défectueuse, à l’histoire des hommes. La réécriture au féminin de Médée force aussi une conception du sujet qui ne revêt pas facilement sa cohérence. Mais la poétique même de cette Médée retranscrite au féminin fait preuve de sa flexibilité, son indétermination, son pouvoir de transcender la simple répétition de son mythe, vu ici autrement et différemment.
Responding to the Work of Penn R. Szittya
This collection responds to the critical legacy of Penn R. Szittya, the recently retired former chair of Georgetown University's English Department. Inspired by Georgetown's Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice and its statement that poetry "traverses the fields of aesthetic, social, political, and religious thought," this work investigates how medieval poetic language reflects and also shapes social, political, and religious worlds. At a moment in contemporary culture when poetry finds its value increasingly challenged, Medieval Poetics and Social Practice looks to the late Middle Ages to assert the indispensability of poetry and poetics in the formation of social structures, actions, and utterances. The contributors offer new readings of canonical late-medieval English poetic texts, such as Langland's Piers Plowman and Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls, and, of equal importance, explore texts that have hitherto not held a central place in criticism but make important contributions to the literary culture of the period. Introduced by Seeta Chaganti, the collection includes essays by Richard K. Emmerson, J. Patrick Hornbeck, John C. Hirsh, Moira Fitzgibbons, John T. Sebastian, Nicholas R. Havely, Kara Doyle, Anne Middleton, Jo Ann Moran Cruz, and Mark McMorris.
"The Metamorphoses of Ovid offers to the modern world such a key to the literary and religious culture of the ancients that it becomes an important event when at last a good poet comes up with a translation into English verse." —John Crowe Ransom
"... a charming and expert English version, which is right in tone for the Metamorphoses." —Francis Fergusson
"This new Ovid, fresh and faithful, is right for our time and should help to restore a great reputation." —Mark Van Doren
The first and still the best modern verse translation of the Metamorphoses, Humphries’ version of Ovid’s masterpiece captures its wit, merriment, and sophistication.
Everyone will enjoy this first modern translation by an American poet of Ovid’s great work, the major treasury of classical mythology, which has perennially stimulated the minds of men. In this lively rendering there are no stock props of the pastoral and no literary landscaping, but real food on the table and sometimes real blood on the ground.
Not only is Ovid’s Metamorphoses a collection of all the myths of the time of the Roman poet as he knew them, but the book presents at the same time a series of love poems—about the loves of men, women, and the gods. There are also poems of hate, to give the proper shading to the narrative. And pervading all is the writer’s love for this earth, its people, its phenomena.
Using ten-beat, unrhymed lines in his translation, Rolfe Humphries shows a definite kinship for Ovid’s swift and colloquial language and Humphries’ whole poetic manner is in tune with the wit and sophistication of the Roman poet.
"... one of the richest, clearest, and acutest surveys to date of the
course of theorizing about myth from the eighteenth century on. I know of no more
useful volume on the topic. Despite the postmodern connotations of the title, Von
Hendy is writing not to expose the concept of myth but simply to show the array of
ways in which it has been used from time to time and from place to place. A superb
work." -- Robert A. Segal,
University of Lancaster,
author of Theorizing about Myth
Andrew Von Hendy offers an integrated critical account of the career of myth in modernity. He takes as its starting point some crucial moments in the 18th-century reinvention of the concept and then follows the major branches of theorizing as they appear in the work of theologians, philosophers, literary artists, political thinkers, folklorists, anthropologists, psychologists, and others.
Von Hendy pursues each of these four
fundamental strains of theory through the 20th century: the rise of neo-romantic
theories in depth psychology, modernist literature, and later in religious
phenomenology, philosophy, and literary criticism; the establishment of folkloristic
theory in ethnological fieldwork and in classical studies; the growth of ideological
theories from Sorel to Barthes and Derrida; and the recent ascent of constitutive
theories of myth as necessary fiction. Finally, Von Hendy examines the work of five
theorists who attempt to come to terms with the lessons of the ideological critique,
yet regard myth as a constructive phenomenon.
Taking a fresh look at the poetry and visual art of the Hellenistic age, from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. to the Romans’ defeat of Cleopatra in 30 B.C., Graham Zanker makes enlightening discoveries about the assumptions and conventions of Hellenistic poets and artists and their audiences.
Zanker’s exciting new interpretations closely compare poetry and art for the light each sheds on the other. He finds, for example, an exuberant expansion of subject matter in the Hellenistic periods in both literature and art, as styles and iconographic traditions reserved for grander concepts in earlier eras were applied to themes, motifs, and subjects that were emphatically less grand.