- Culture and Society in Crete: From Kornaros to Kazantzakis ed. by Liana Giannakopoulou, E. Kostas Skordyles
This book prints a selection of the papers delivered at a 2014 conference honoring Professor David Holton, recently retired from directing Modern and Medieval Greek Studies at the University of Cambridge. It opens with Holton’s own greetings (in Greek, with touches of Cretan dialect) in which after thanking students at both Oxford and Cambridge for their contributions to Greek studies he ends with «Ζήτω η Κρήτη!» (Long live Crete!; vi). In the book itself, however, the thanks go repeatedly in the opposite direction: to the professor himself, whose example inspired others not only to produce useful research but also to emulate Holton’s own cheerful exuberance regarding Crete and indeed all of Greek culture. The 15 contributions are divided into five large sections: Renaissance literature; Nikos Kazantzakis; Crete as a topos; social and linguistic perspectives; Crete and . . . beyond.
Part 1 contains three studies. In the first, Marina Rodostenous-Balafa follows Holton’s suggestion that texts from Crete and Cyprus written when both islands were under Venetian rule might display similarities. She discovers two works, both influenced by Petrarch, that demonstrate this. In the second essay, Nikolas Kakkoufa explores several dreams in Vitsentzos Kornaros’s Erotokritos and explains how each governs the outcome of the story in which it is embedded. The final paper in this section, by Michael Paschalis, examines self-consciousness in Cretan Renaissance literature, discovering an evolutionary pattern—yet with significant differences—between The Sacrifice of Abraham and Georgios Chortatzis’s Erofili.
Part 2 contains two studies on Kazantzakis. The first, by Afroditi Athanasopoulou, treats the writer’s 1939 and 1946 sojourns in England. In the initial visit Kazantzakis still evidences the nationalist messianism of his youth, whereas in his subsequent visit he is led to psychic camouflage and “hypothermia” (100). Athanasopoulou concludes that all of his travel writings blend nonfiction and fiction into a “ ‘mixed genre’ that deserves to be studied in its own right” (77). In the second study, the author views Kazantzakis’s epic Odyssey more favorably than most scholars have done in the past. “The aim of this paper,” states Helena González-Vaquerizo, “is to challenge the statement that [Kazantzakis’s] Odyssey was obsolete from the beginning, and to place it among the very first monuments of European Modernism” (104). By this she means that Kazantzakis employed the “mythic method” to speak about [End Page 184] contemporary issues. Although she grants the presence of nineteenth-century literary fashions, González-Vaquerizo hopes that others will agree with her that Kazantzakis’s Odyssey also displays a twentieth-century modernistic perspective.
We move now to Part 3, again with two literary studies, one on Maro Douka by Kristina Gedgaudaitè, the other on Rea Galanaki by Georgia Pateridou. The setting is, of course, always Crete, whether urban or rural. Gedgaudaitè sees Chania in Douka’s novel as deterritorializing the notion of belonging, which is conveyed more by relationships than by soil. For Pateridou, on the other hand, the term “locality,” as seen in Galanaki’s fiction, projects “a resilient cultural peculiarity which makes Crete appear to be embracing a type of secluded utopia—away from the processes of modernization and globalization” (137).
Part 4, “Social and Linguistic Aspects in Historical Perspective,” begins with an essay entitled “Graphematic Evidence for Cretan Phonology from the 16th to the 20th Century.” This allows Professor Holton’s career to come into view once again because Io Manolessou, the article’s author, was part of a team, directed by Holton, that was charged with collecting data for a forthcoming Grammar of Medieval and Early Modern Greek commissioned by Cambridge University Press. The paper is very technical; yet it does branch into social commentary when it suggests that the Venetian rulers of Crete preferred the Latin alphabet for written Greek because they aimed “to disrupt the link with the past, the Ancient Greek and the learned Byzantine tradition, an important...