Grendel circled sounds of the harp prowled the marshes moors and ice-streams forests and fens. He found his home with misshapen monsters in misery and greed.
Together with the Leveller social heresy about humanity’s “right to choose its rulers, rather than to rule,” Milton advocates for religious heresy (Gk. hairesis, “choice”) – where believers are required to give a reasoned account of their beliefs – an idea which is fundamental to his poetics of choice.
Somewhere I Have Never Travelled: The Hero’s Journey by Thomas Van Nortwick, a 1996 paperback from Oxford University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Exploring the hero’s journey as a metaphor for spiritual evolution, this book combines literary, psychological, and spiritual insights to examine three ancient epics: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer’s Iliad, and Virgil’s Aeneid. Van Nortwick focuses on the relationship of the hero to one or more ‘second selves,’ or alter egos. Through these second selves the poems address central and enduring truths about human life: that heroism in pursuit of glory can lead to alienation from one’s self; and that spiritual wholeness can only be achieved through what appears, at first, to be the negation of the self. The discussion also serves as an introduction to the central themes and historical evolution of ancient epic.” — back cover
Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece by Jesper Svenbro, tranlated by Janet Lloyd, part of the Myth and Poetics series edited by Gregory Nagy, the 1993 paperback from Cornell University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“One of the most haunting early examples of Greek alphabetical writing appears on the life-sized Archaic funery statue of a young girl. The inscription speaks for Phrasikleia, who ‘shall always be called maiden,’ for she has received this name from the gods instead of marriage.
First published in French in 1988, this extraordinary book traces the meaning and function of reading from its very beginnings in Greek oral culture through the development of silent reading. Focusing on metaphors of reading and writing, Jesper Svenbro offers a series of rich analyses of sepulchral and votive inscriptions and myths as well as works of epic and lyrical poetry, legal exegesis, drama, and philosophy. Svenbro draws upon the theoretical insights of Foucault as he discusses such texts as the Iliad, the poetry of Sappho, and the ABC Show by Callias. With reference to the shift to silent reading, Svenbro illuminates a pervasive metaphor in Greek culture—the pederastic paradigm, in which the reader submits to the domination of the writer. In the central section of Plato’s Phaedrus, however, Svenbro discerns an alternative model: reader and writer mutually engaged in the search for truth.
Phrasikleia opens up fascinating new perspectives on the culture of ancient Greece and the genesis of reading. A wide range of classicists, literary theorists, anthropologists, and ancient historians will welcome its availability in Janet Lloyd’s lucid and fluent translation.” — back cover
Arjuna in the Mahabharata: Where Krishna Is, There Is Victory by Ruth Cecily Katz, a 1989 hardcover in the Studies in Comparative Religion series edited by Frederick M Denny from University of South Carolina Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“This book is a thorough study of the great Indian hero, the Achilles of India, Arjuna, as portayed in the epic poem Mahabharata, including its world famous subsection, the Bhagavadgita. Attempting to portray Arjuna as ‘a Hindu, involved in Hindu culture, might see or have seen him on the basis of the epic as passed down through the centuries more or less in its current form,’ the discussion focuses in turn on three ‘levels’ of Arjuna’s character, tracing their ebb and flow throughout the text: Arjuna’s semi-divine heroism; his humanization in the face of debilitating dilemmas; and his transcendence of the human condition by way of devotion to the god Krishna. In consideration of earlier and contemporary scholarship regarding the Indian epic tradition, in particular the respective works Georges Dumézil and Madeleine Biardeau, this study locates the Mahabharata, and Arjuna with it, in the context of two thousand years of Indian religious texts, from the Vedas to the Puranas. More broadly, Arjuna is compared with Indo-European/Semitic heroes from outside the Indian tradition, such as Achilles himself, Gilgamesh, Rustam, Cuchulainn and, finally, Jesus. The complete Mahabharata story is retold for the reader’s convenience as the discussion proceeds. An appendix on the names (epithets) of Arjuna concludes the study.” — back cover
The Anger of Achilles: Mênis in Greek Epic by Leonard Muellner, a 1995 paperback in the Myth and Poetics series edited by Gregory Nagy from Cornell University Press, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.
“Leonard Muellner’s goal is to restore the Greek word for the anger of Achilles, mênis, to its social, mythical, and poetic contexts. His point of departure is the anthropology of emotions. He believes that notions of anger vary between cultures and that the particular meaning of a word such as mênis needs to emerge from a close study of Greek epic. Mênis means more than an individual’s emotional response. on the basis of the epic exemplifications of the word, Muellner defines the term as a cosmic sanction against behavior that violates the most basic rules of human society. To understand the way mênis functions, Muellner stresses both the power and the danger that accrue to a person who violates such rules. Transgressive behavior has both a creative and destructive aspect.” — back cover