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Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

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Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Thu Oct 10, 2013 2:16 pm

Ok so this is a damnably bad title and I apologise. It could be about books, or the book trade in antiquity, reading practices, dissemination of texts. Anything! Such is the scope of the title. Its not though, it is literally about books you like. I want a broad book discussion.

It doesn't have to be about technical literature on language and metrics and grammar, or inscriptional history or Greek toilet habits. It suppose it can be, but I wanted to turn towards the more broader/accessible studies out there. Not necessarily conspiracy theories and the odd popular press books, but stuff like Whitman's "Heroic Tradition" etc. Stuff which assumes you know, or will know, one or both languages.

Partly because I need a break from the other stuff, partly because these books don't really get discussed much. What do you like? by whom? on what? why? recommendations?

For me I'm starting with J Griffins' "Homer on Life and Death"...I kind of love it. Griffin has had an indirect effect on me via teachers and the field itself as well as a slightly more direct one through his book. It's...it's so interesting. It manages to discuss parallels and near eastern reflexes (and world literature generally) without getting bogged down with details of transmissions or ideologies, it gives sensible readings and...it's just so well written. I've read it many times and will do so again probably.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Oct 10, 2013 3:42 pm

Right now I couldn't think of anything much to say, except that this is a good idea and I like it!

I think I've read Griffin's book (at least I had it a long time from the library...), but since it was one of the first Homer books I read I don't remember much, or what I remember has been mixed up with other stuff. I guess I'll get it again some day, since everybody seems to be praising it.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Oct 10, 2013 7:32 pm

Ok, here I go.

Jonathan Gottschall: The Rape of Troy. I read this book when I was only starting to study Homer, but it made a big impression then. Now I might be more critical in some points. It tries to explain the behaviour of the Homeric heroes through evolutionary biology and anthropology. Said like that, it sounds really bad, reductionist and predictable, but it isn't. I learned a lot about human violence reading this book, maybe some of it might be commonplace to people who have studied more anthropology than I have, but still. It really makes Homer just a case in point to show some general tendencies in human behaviour, especially violence, but there are many good observations about Homer in particular too. It's a short book and absolutely worth reading.

Samuel Marks: Homeric Seafaring. Ok, maybe this is goes in the same category with Greek toilet habits. Still, if you interested about 1) Homer, and 2) ships, this book is for you. The title is a bit misleading, it's about ship construction, navigation is not really treated. The writer is naval archeologist and thinks Homer's ships use sewn plank contruction, among other things. The parts about geography at least were naive, but I really enjoyed the bits where the author kept in his own trade, i.e. naval archeology.

Ceterum censeo, everything written by M. L. West should be read, read again, read backwards and read once again.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Scribo » Thu Oct 10, 2013 8:08 pm

I liked Homeric Seafaring! I mean like most bits on Homer (and the wider world) by archaeologists, those sections were...trying at times, but we can't get into that without going beyond the remit of the thread. :lol: I really enjoyed it overall.

Chadwick's Mycenaean World:

I did and still adore this book. There have been countless improvements in the field since and several introductory books (not always by Mycenologists or Classicists...) but for me this is still the best overall treatment. First off, its sensible in its theorising and I admire the way he sets out the relationship between Homer and Bronze age, as in stop abusing one in explaining the other. Alas, precious few have listened. It leads on wonderfully to more technical and modern introductions whilst still being inherently readable. Take another modern introduction for example, Castledon's, basically expensive toilet paper.

Winnington-Ingram's Sophocles and Interpretation:

Another classic, on one hand I (as I mentioned above) feel uncomfortable with this kind of literary work...Its a completely different modus operandi than my own but it remains an excellent introduction to Sophocles and his plays, my second favourite of the triad (I dislike all but like, two, of Euripides' plays. He is last. He deserves to be last). The sections are divided by individual plays but everything has a wonderful synergism.

Argh this is harder than I thought. Also Paul please feel free to suggest alternative thread titles. I forgot to mention that above, this title sucks and I've still nothing in my petasos.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Oct 12, 2013 11:01 am

Then there's of course the ground-breaking, pioneering, trend-setting work by Felice Vince, The Baltic Origins of Homer. We talked about this one before, but it's so important that I thought it worthwhile to mention it again. Little did I know before that I've been living most of my life at less than two hours drive from Troy! As with any breakthrough, there are some sceptics and denialists, but luckily they were not the ones who wrote the Wikipedia article.

Unfortunately, I haven't read this amazing piece of scholarship yet... I think it would be a good idea to buy a couple of those to offer to fellow Homerists, in case one needs to offer them a κειμήλιον, say on the 1st of May...

The author is a nuclear engineer. I hope the facilities he has been working in have been maintained with the same intellectual rigour as the one that gave birth to this wonderful work.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Qimmik » Sat Oct 12, 2013 3:39 pm

I agree with Scribo re Griffin and Whitman (I've treasured my copy of the Whitman book since high school, and I took a couple of courses with Whitman long ago, as well as a seminar with G.N. on the Iliad before his views became hardened).

I have my reservations about M.L. West, which I've expressed in the Homer forum, but I agree with Paul that he is a great scholar who has made many contributions to the study of ancient Greek literature. And, after rereading the Iliad and the Odyssey earlier this year, I've become more sympathetic to his view that the Iliad and the Odyssey were somehow composed in or with the aid of writing, and probably later than the 8th century. I felt this more strongly as I read the Odyssey, in which I think the complex anticipations and foreshadowings and patterns of thematic development seem even less amenable to oral "composition in performance" than the Iliad's. I just don't like the arbitrary excisions and wholesale tampering with the evidence of the manuscript tradition--our only evidence for the texts--that pervade West's edition of the Iliad, and I think his views on the origins of the Homeric poems (along with those of nearly everyone else who ventures to address this topic) are expressed far more categorically and confidently than the evidence allows.

Among other things I read as I was reading the Iliad, were (1) Due and Ebbott's Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush--a stimulating and thought-provoking "hard Parryist," G.N.-inspired, defense of Iliad 10 as an integral part of the Iliadic tradition (though my inclinations, subject to a generally skeptical outlook, lie in another direction), and (2) Jenny Strauss Clay, Homer's Trojan Theater, which I think is a big help in understanding the action of the Iliad in spatial terms.

I wholeheartedly agree with with Paul's assessment of the Felice Vince "book", even though I haven't read it. Paul, you must already have paid a visit to the site of the Iliad. "a κειμήλιον, say on the 1st of May..." I think you meant, on the 1st of April, didn't you? As I recall, there's another book that locates the Iliad in Scotland, too. Both of these must be right, simultaneously!
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Scribo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:00 pm

I've actually flicked through that book...it...I feel ashamed I can't make a witty joke of my own about it and join in the fun, damn.

I see what you mean about the Iliad, though I think I'm going to sidestep a discussion of Homer and composition in this thread if you don't mind. Overall, I'm very Westian in certain aspects but I disagree with a) incisions and problems and b) that writing was necessary. When I was a second year I wrote a defence of the so called logical inconsistencies and problems within the texts btw, it was very facile. Having a more systemised experience of oral performances I've built up my ideas and its certainly something I would like to get back too. I've only had a few chances to give my ideas on this orally and really want to get something down but...it's proving difficult.


The Whitman book I only got recently, as of...2011, I've yet to actually finish it but it possesses a certain charm and I'm currently on chapter four.

What's sad, to me, is how few good accessible books there are on Hesiod! Οκ, we have W's amazing commentaries and some serious scholarly works but...there aren't really that many general treatments. I don't know if we can include Strauss-Clay's book on "Hesiod's Cosmos" under this rubric. It's a shame, he is a phenomenal poet. I also find him oddly comforting. I guess he's grumpy and down like I often am. I wish he had a more central place in reading lists.

On the Roman side of things there's Fanthams book "Roman Literary Culture". It is written for american undergraduates so requires no classical languages and is often facile in its assessments but overall its a fantastic book: It has a broad range, pays enough attention to Republic contexts and is clearly informed of current important debates about the nature of Roman literary praxis. I think I'd actually recommend this as an introduction to Roman literature. I recently read it since it has a new edition out with a Christian epilogue.

Anyway for someone like me, who really dislikes the entire Augustan movement (well bar a few) and tends to read either much earlier or later, this is a wonderful book.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:30 pm

This is a nice thread, keep telling about books you like!

Qimmik, I sort of agree with you about West's overconfident bracketing in his Iliad, which we've discussed so many times before already... But what I wanted to point out is how huge his literary output is, the sheer number of important books. I mean beside his Iliad books, there's The East Face of Helicon, Indo-European Poetry and Myth, his Works and Days, his Theogony, his new commentary on the Epic Cycle, the one on the Catalogue of Women, these being the books I've either read or at least had borrowed from the library ( :) ), and then there's a whole lot more, like his books on Greek music and Greek metre, which I hope I'll read one day. Not to mention his articles (The most important of which are now being published in a three volume set called Hellenica. The first volume is on Epic.)

As for the 1st of April... That would be a nice day indeed to pass around books by Vinci! But I'd just forgotten that the 1st of May isn't as important in other countries as in Finland. In Finland it's a carnaval day (and, especially, a day of public drunkenness).
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:56 pm

Qimmik wrote:Paul, you must already have paid a visit to the site of the Iliad.

Unfortunately not, I've never been to either Hissarlik or Toija (Vinci's Troy - a place totally devoid of archaeological or any other interest. If it wasn't for Vinci, I wouldn't know such a place exists).

Speaking of Troy, two books great books about Hissarlik and Troy come to mind
1) Joachim Latacz: Troy and Homer. I guess this is some kind of reference, though some people think he's too optimistic. I read him quite a long time ago, I don't remember very well anymore the exact debate.
2) Trevor Bryce: Trojans and their neighbours. I think Bryce is generally called the more sober of the two. What he says about Homer tends to be naive though, as is expected from an archaeologist... Anyway, he doesn't even seem to accept a link between Alexander (=Paris) and Alaksandu (a king of Wilusa, according to Hittite documents). Skepticism is a good thing in general, but I think this one is too good to be a coincidence.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Scribo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:41 pm

I like Latacz's book, but it has its flaws. Misuse of evidence, logical leaps and an oddly selective bibliography. As in it seems to (deliberately?) miss out important studies. See if you can get hold of Joshua Katz's review which details a lot of problems. Despite all this I'm still positive because, like Katz, I want to believe. I want to believe so much I took a full year of advanced training in the bronze age crap. Even handled and played with tablets and stuff. I want to believe, even as my intellectual integrity tries to stop me. Grr...

I used to think the problem with these sort of books btw is that Archaeologists heavily misuse Homer and the oral tradition and Classicists ignore the most interesting archaeological stuff due to relative obscurity. Moreover most work on the bronze age is now handled completely by Archaeologists with limited training in Greek philology, which is a recipe for disaster. Whereas in previous generations they all a strong basis in Greek linguistics. However I also think, basically, that there is a growing unfamiliarity amongst classicists of how oral traditions and cultural memory work so there is a third missing aspect. You never see the most important studies cited.

Bryce is an excellent study, also Yakubovich has an important book on sociolinguistics and Luwian which do sort of impact this stuff. It's very stiff reading though.

PS. Found that review on an open access thing: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? ... id=1426853
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Qimmik » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:30 am

I think West's Hesiod commentaries (Works and Days, Theogony etc.) are superb. Also his work on Greek music. His book on Greek meter is also the best I've seen, though it's very succinct and dense, almost too much so. East Face of Helicon and Indo-European are very helpful as reference works (even he admits they contain speculative leaps, but they could be useful and suggestive to Hellenists in tracing Near Eastern and Indo-European parallels to archaic Greek literature). I have the first two volumes of Hellenica, and both offer a lot of important articles.

I, too, want to believe (and I do, with all the fervor of an Appalachian snake handler), so I liked the Latacz book. However, I think Trevor Bryce's book is more sober, as you say, but it's informed by a specialist knowledge of the Anatolian Bronze Age and, in particular, the Hittites. I'm not sure he actually rejects the identification of Wilusa and Alaksandu so much as remains cautiously agnostic. The book itself is aimed more at a popular than a scholarly audience, and in that context, I think his discussion of Homer is illuminating and helpful. There's now a small volume on the Trojan War in the Oxford Very Short Introductions series, which covers much the same ground.

Another book on Homer: Barbara Graziosi's Inventing Homer, which traces how the idea of Homer (as opposed to the poems themselves) took shape over the course of Greek history.

Chadwick's Mycenaean World -- I wholeheartedly agree, and his Decipherment of Linear B which I read at 13 in 1959 and it has held me in its thrall forever after.

When I visited Greece last year, I came away with a keychain with the Linear B symbol for olive tree. I acquired this magical talisman at the Olive Museum in Sparti--it sounds like a Sehenswuerdigkeit you could easily skip, but it's really a wonderful, very modern museum that should be especially fascinating for anyone with an interest in ancient (or modern) Greece. Vaut le detour! If you visit the Byzantine city of Mostras, Sparti is not far away. There's also a modern statue of Leonidas in Sparti, with the inscription μολὼν λαβέ. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molon_labe

For those who aren't aware just how weird and crazy the US is (and by now you should be), read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_handling
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Scribo » Sun Oct 13, 2013 10:10 am

Wow that really is crazy...haha. I truly know very little of the US, I ought to have gone when I could have.

The problem with believing is, as I say, my mind won't let my heart. I think there is a generic connection, that some places and some names have came down to us. Beyond that...I see little to no evidence. For me, studying this stuff at a graduate level, was in some ways one of my first slaps in the face: The civilisation really was alien. It was interesting, but alien. I felt a lot of work being done was facile and often specious too. The other major slap in the face, what really disillusioned me with academic praxis, was being asked....seriously asked...at an interview at one of the biggest universities in the world...why I bothered with learning non classical ancient languages and why did I think x ancient culture could tell us anything about the Greeks? who were magical and unique basically. This from a big name. It's just...sad.

Greece has a few nice museums off the beaten way actually but I'd never heard of that one, I shall add it to my list when I'm back for Christmas. I heartily recommend the Byzantine museum, its well kept, organised and the write ups are infinitely better than what you find elsewhere. The Akropolis museum was nice for the price and the view but overall just...just hilarious.

Graziosi, along with Haubold, has actually put out a decent nexus of work on epic, and have gathered a little coterie of students up there in Durham. When I was there for a conference I was amazed, I've never seen so many students in the same room all interested in epic, the near east, oral intertexts etc etc. Phenomenal. Bet we'll see many awesome books pouring forth from there in the near future!

I also put forward Finley's book on ancient history, the one with the essay on myth and society.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Qimmik » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:52 pm

"The problem with believing is, as I say, my mind won't let my heart."

Yes, I agree with that, too, and of course I'm a cautious skeptic when I read modern books about the historicity of the Trojan War. But that's no reason not to entertain two mutually inconsistent ideas simultaneously.

And you really can't experience ancient Greek as fully as possible in our degenerate era without accepting the literal truth of Homer.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:05 pm

Qimmik wrote:There's also a modern statue of Leonidas in Sparti, with the inscription μολὼν λαβέ.

Is that a challenge to carry off the statue, if you're strong enough...?

About the mind not letting the heart to believe... I've known this problem with other things in life, but not with Homer. I've never thought the Iliad was a historical document (and I guess nobody in their right minds thinks the Odyssey is one). Even in children's books I read when I was like 10 there was some kind of skeptical note, "we don't know if there ever was a Trojan War". (This is different from say, the Old Testament, which up to a certain age I thought was historically exact and accurate from beginning to end). Sure, there wasn't probably one great Trojan war. But the Mycenean civilisation did exist, there were Greek-speaking people doing stuff on the Anatolian coast in the 2nd millenium BC, we have places called Wilusa and Truwisa in just the right place according to Hittite sources, with some guy called Aleksandu ruling there as well as people whose names sound not much unlike Priam (this last part doesn't convince me so much as the other ones). Also, Homer preserves the memory of the importance of places like Mycenae and Pylos, though he has anachronisms too (I think Sparta wasn't important in Mycenean times for instance). (As a matter of fact Homeric geography and it's anachronism is a subject I'd like to know more about - any tips?)

For me, it really depends what you expect me to believe. Sure, you can't extrapolate on archaelogical data using Homer or vice versa. You can't go assuming that something happened in the Mycenean age because Homer says so. But certainly Homer preserves memories of something, though it's so distorted that we can't trust it. Achilles, for instances, looks to be more connected with raids on other islands and cities near Troy than the Trojan war itself. Other heroes too have certainly been imported from other contexts. Sure, the catalogue of ships probably isn't a Mycenean muster list; but I don't believe there's one single place on that list that Homer made up; it means something, though probably not what Homer is saying. It's all about disentangling all those different threads and finding the historical kernels (and not all of those threads necessarily go back to the Mycenean age, though I believe many of them do). Since I'm not expecting to gaze on the face of Agamemnon, I don't really see how the truth about all this could disappoint me.

Scribo: By Finley's book, do you mean The World of Odysseus? Haven't read - some say he was wrong there about almost everything. What do you think?
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:44 pm

Homer doesn't remember something. He remembers some things. There is a crucial difference beyond semantics. Those looking for a concrete memory of "something", as many do, are bound to be upset. That's not how oral tradition's work...there are several "layers" and several small reminiscences and its not reacting to a single time event though we might conjecture that the sack of Troy was one such event. Don't forget you had Aegeans messing about in Miletus (mi-ra-wa-na-da) well before Troy and along Asia minor (and Cyprus) quite a bit later.

Anyway, Geography, the best treatments of Mycenaean geography are by Chadwick, he may have something in the book Qimmik and I recommended but I believe his article in some proceedings or other is more detailed, likewise there have been a few by others but largely secondary. I recall some French stuff.

For Homer's geography you obviously have the summary in the Cambridge commentary series and Eduard Visser's (German) commentary on the catalogue of ships. For me, I think the most important context here is one of contemporary concerns. You've also got, much more importantly!, the link between myth, cult, colonisation and Homeric "geography". Essentially we need to stop trying to act as if Homer's a proto-Strabo or that his audience and, say, listeners in the late 7th and early 6th centuries saw his geography the same way...

But come on guys we're falling into the same traps here :lol:

Finley: No I didn't mean that one. I don't see why it's a bad book....I mean...it is, but it's old...so does it count as "bad"? I think Latacz supersedes it as a more general treatment. I mean his book "The Use and Abuse of History". Which has some great set pieces. Especially that on myth and history or myth as history. Fascinating.

I'd like to advance Coffey's "Roman Satire" too. I loved that book, the best Latin poetry is in this genre and its a really solid introduction with some clever readings without the mentality I associate with Latin scholars.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Qimmik » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:58 am

Of all the commentaries and books on Virgil, the one that we used in 4th-year Latin (1962-1963) is the one that has stuck with me the most: Page. Page, the Victorian or Edwardian schoolmaster, really took Virgil to heart, more than anyone else before or since. I still have my 50-year old dog-eared copy.
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Re: Books (Title pending)*

Postby daivid » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:58 pm

Scribo wrote:
The problem with believing is, as I say, my mind won't let my heart. I think there is a generic connection, that some places and some names have came down to us. Beyond that...I see little to no evidence. For me, studying this stuff at a graduate level, was in some ways one of my first slaps in the face: The civilisation really was alien. It was interesting, but alien. I felt a lot of work being done was facile and often specious too. The other major slap in the face, what really disillusioned me with academic praxis, was being asked....seriously asked...at an interview at one of the biggest universities in the world...why I bothered with learning non classical ancient languages and why did I think x ancient culture could tell us anything about the Greeks? who were magical and unique basically. This from a big name. It's just...sad.


Ahhh, aren't you going to tell us who that was?
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:12 pm

Ha no that would be...inopportune since, for one thing, this page would then come up with Google searches etc.

Qimmik that's cool. Actually that's a funny point...there aren't really that many introductory commentaries being produced anymore, so for Homer I went straight to the Cambridge series and the BK, occasionally checking particular book by book treatments, I never had a chance to check Willcock.

For Virgil though I've used two: Firstly, Pharr's commentary on 1-6. Wonderful for the neophyte and my copy is so bloody battered it is unbelievable. Other than I went through William's, particularly for 7-12. A much nicer pace so I had some idea of what was going on before I was given Norden, Horsfall, Austin et al.

I must admit that very little of Virgil "clicks" with me, I like the end of six, all of eight and twelve and I suppose two is interesting enough for me to like it, but otherwise for me Virgil breaks down into episodes I like, e.g "The Italic catalogue", and then a lot of dead space.

In fact from the entire Augustan era, outside the Aeneid, I think Horace is the only poet I really like. And that's discounting his odes. I read them all and I enjoyed some of the Latin pryotechnics but generally my face was like: :x :cry: :oops: :shock:
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:22 pm

I tried to read the Aeneid in English translation earlier this year (translated by David West). It was so boring, I abandoned after reading a little more than the half. I guess I'll force myself to read the rest some day. But how can anyone compare that to Homer? It was just blaa blaa blaa to me.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Victor » Mon Oct 14, 2013 5:41 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:I tried to read the Aeneid in English translation earlier this year (translated by David West). It was so boring, I abandoned after reading a little more than the half. I guess I'll force myself to read the rest some day. But how can anyone compare that to Homer? It was just blaa blaa blaa to me.

In the first instance I would appeal to you to try and develop an ear for Vergil's word music. I don't think we can say there is any poet who surpasses him in his sensitivity to the poetic power of the spoken word. Try reading (in Latin, not English!) the first few hundred lines of Aeneid II, for example; you may begin to understand what Tennyson meant when he called Vergil "Wielder of the stateliest measure/
Ever moulded by the lips of man."
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Qimmik » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:01 pm

Homer comes across much better in translation than Virgil, in part precisely because Virgil's art is so closely bound up in the words--both their physical sound and their connotations. In this respect, while the Aeneid is his masterpiece, of course, in some ways I prefer the Bucolics and expecially the Georgics. Some lines send shivers down my spine. To appreciate Virgil fully (and I understand that "appreciate" reflects an old-fashioned and problematized approach) you have to have not only all of Homer but also a fair amount of other Greek and Latin literature under your belt. Fortunately, I don't have to chose between Homer and Virgil.

One (very expensive) book I recently read with a lot of satisfaction on the Bucolics (but which is also illuminating on the Georgics and even the Aeneid) is Gregson Davis, Parthenope: The Interplay of Ideas in Vergilian Bucolic.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:07 pm

Victor and Qimmik, I was expecting a defence of Virgil along those lines... Anyway, I don't know Latin well enough to read Virgil yet. I don't know if I ever will. Anyway, I wanted to read Virgil to be able to read Dante's Divine Comedy, not for the sake of Virgil. Since Virgil bored me to death, I haven't started Dante either. And I don't know Italian either, not to mention Mediaval Italian, so Dante too would be in translation. Unlucky me. Life is short and Greek is long, no time for Latin.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:50 pm

Paul, I agree with you on how short life is and how difficult it is to develop an appreciation of so many poets, but I don't believe Virgil (or any other poet) is lost completely in translation, or that having some of the original language suddenly "unlocks" that poet for you. We can be more nuanced.

Qimmik I hear you on the "appreciation" part. For me, its simple: We can develop a sensible appreciation/critique for ourselves providing we're aware that our views are not the ancients, that the primary culture is more important. Secondly, we can develop an appreciation for ourselves (think of it as our reward) as long as we avoid this horrid, flabby, British Victorian tweed wearing idiotic "hue hue hue X is the best poet ever" lark. Really? Really? Mr Cobblespluttersowrthiton? Please tell me what you know of world literature with your grand total of 4 languages. Please. Please!

That sort of crap it what killed the subject, when it became a sort of gentlemen's club of taste. Unfortunately you see these people around you all the time, far far too often...yes even in places like Oxford and Cambridge.

But! Since we're on Virgil what about book recommendations? I'm only really aware of those heady academic studies myself and I'm not sure what the equivalent of Whitman etc would be. Conte's Poetry of Pathos?
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Qimmik » Tue Oct 15, 2013 7:31 pm

Conte's chapter on hypallage in Virgil is very illuminating.

With Virgil you have to decide whether or not you belong to the "Harvard School". Even though I took some courses with Clausen during the Viet Nam era, I'm not completely of that persuasion. I think that Virgil was to some extent an Augustan apologist, but everything Virgil wrote is permeated with a pervasive sadness that undercuts and "problematizes" (to use a word that currently seems to be fashionable) the propaganda. And of course the way the propaganda is presented in the Aeneid is stunning, in addition to everything else.

Brooks Otis and Michael Putnam have written some good books about Virgil. One of the best older books about Virgil, which has been translated into English, is Richard Heinze's Vergil's Epic Technique. Also Poeschl.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:01 pm

Actually it's hard to get away from the Harvard school readings in the UK where it's been pretty much the dominant model, I mean in Oxford probably largely due to the influence of scholars like Lyne but it seems to be pretty popular. I myself....I don't know I think it's quite praise wielding but I think the major problems are the way we view the praise. We're always a bit...suspicious or snobbish about the way Horace or Virgil seem to us whereas I think the nature of such a thing was markedly different in Roman society. More acceptable, more typical and expected.

I started to read Putnam's Interpretation and Influence and just really disliked it by the way. I doubt I'll ever finish it, I don't think I even bothered taking notes.

See, quite a lot of the major criticism of the Augustan era is quite alien to me. In general the modus of Latinists also is quite different: they ask different questions and are interested in different social phenomena, if they go beyond the texts at all (ooo naughty :twisted: ). I recently read Tarrant's commentary on Aeneid XII and really liked it. I believe he is, aptly, Clausen's successor in the pope chair as well.

For my money the single most interesting Virgilian scholar is, of all people, Horsfall. Partially because in his discussion of mythography, cult, quellen etc he's quite Hellenist in his manner.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Victor » Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:30 pm

Scribo wrote:Actually it's hard to get away from the Harvard school readings in the UK where it's been pretty much the dominant model, I mean in Oxford probably largely due to the influence of scholars like Lyne but it seems to be pretty popular. I myself....I don't know I think it's quite praise wielding but I think the major problems are the way we view the praise. We're always a bit...suspicious or snobbish about the way Horace or Virgil seem to us whereas I think the nature of such a thing was markedly different in Roman society. More acceptable, more typical and expected.

I started to read Putnam's Interpretation and Influence and just really disliked it by the way. I doubt I'll ever finish it, I don't think I even bothered taking notes.

See, quite a lot of the major criticism of the Augustan era is quite alien to me. In general the modus of Latinists also is quite different: they ask different questions and are interested in different social phenomena, if they go beyond the texts at all (ooo naughty :twisted: ). I recently read Tarrant's commentary on Aeneid XII and really liked it. I believe he is, aptly, Clausen's successor in the pope chair as well.

For my money the single most interesting Virgilian scholar is, of all people, Horsfall. Partially because in his discussion of mythography, cult, quellen etc he's quite Hellenist in his manner.

Maybe I am out of my depth in the midst of all this discussion of Vergilian criticism, or maybe I simply feel less dependence on what others have said in order to be able to arrive at some appreciation of Vergil's art. Either way, it would be interesting to see more in the way of personal responses to Vergil's poetry, and less in the way of criticism of criticism.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:40 pm

My previous might have come out a bit rude. That wasn't the point. Anyway, I'm a big big fan of Homer; when I read Virgil, I see him adapting Homer all the time in a way that I feel just isn't right (not right for me I mean, not for everybody necessarily...), probably partly because I read it in translation, and partly because it doesn't have the simplicity of oral poetry, which is everywhere in Homer. Apollonios Rhodios is very similar to Virgil in many respects, but I could stand it because 1) the substance matter interested me more, and 2) I could read him in the original.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Qimmik » Wed Oct 16, 2013 12:57 am

"I see him adapting Homer all the time"

This isn't adaptation--it's engaging deeply with the poetry of the past--not just Homer, but Euripides, Theocritus, Hesiod, Apollonius, Ennius, Lucretius etc.--and creating new poetry out of it. But I think Virgil doesn't submit to translation as well as Homer because much of what makes him worth reading lies in the specifically Latin music of his verse. Virgil's verse, and Latin verse generally, is more carefully shaped than Homer, with elaborate and complex patterning of words and sounds. Virgil's verse is, for want of a better word, more sensuous than Homer's. The Latin hexameter is very different from the Greek hexameter--there is a constant interplay between the quantitative character of the meter and the Latin stress accent, a tension between the two at the beginning of the verse and a resolution at the end. (In Greek, and particularly in Homer, the segmentation of the verse into cola by caesuras and diaereses, and enjambments, are the key elements that provide life to the verse.) Virgil uses everyday Latin words in striking new ways. All of this doesn't come across in translation, even in a good translation. You don't look for simplicity in Virgil (though I'm not sure Homer is quite so "simple", either)--Virgil is complex.

But for me, at least, he has the endless ability to produce turns of phrase that are utterly surprising and yet completely natural at the same time. And that's just at the level of the individual verse.

"it would be interesting to see more in the way of personal responses to Vergil's poetry, and less in the way of criticism of criticism." This started as a discussion of books, but feel free to contribute some personal responses if that's what you'd prefer to see.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:00 am

Victor wrote:Maybe I am out of my depth in the midst of all this discussion of Vergilian criticism, or maybe I simply feel less dependence on what others have said in order to be able to arrive at some appreciation of Vergil's art. Either way, it would be interesting to see more in the way of personal responses to Vergil's poetry, and less in the way of criticism of criticism.


Are you suggesting that we use books because somehow we're not as clever as you are for simply giving your opinion? It couldn't be, could it, then when dealing with a long dead poet and their civilisation we simply recognise that our viewpoints and responses are somehow not theirs? hm?

This thread is, as the title suggests, for the discussion of books pertaining to the subject and whilst I'm sure it will become littered with personal readings and opinions as it progresses (since such things are necessary) they certainly shan't take main stage here. You're welcome, encouraged even, to make a new thread devoted to Virgil and the Aeneid if you like but any discussion here must be at least somewhat related to books.

Paul I don't think anyone thinks you were rude, dw. Eh I kind of feel the same about Virgil, which is why my readings try so hard to apply tools of Homeric criticism - which is essentially a bad idea. I admittedly privilege Roman elements in Latin literature over Greek ones anyway. Even as early as Livius Andronicus we can discern native elements but...I don't know. I don't know why the same scholar can talk about how clever the Greeks were for using x, y, and z from the "Near East" but then berate the Romans for being dependant copycats. How odd. So that can be a fun game.

I like to concentrate on the use of Homer in terms of...well it's hardly agonistic poetry like you get with the Greeks but its not adaptation or translation either but a sort of re-modelling. Actually in general Virgil's use of Homer is something I find very troubling, he seems to deliberately play with expectations, I mean Turnus and co constantly think they're Greeks in the Iliad fighting the Trojans and look how that turns out for them. :lol:
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Victor » Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:53 pm

Scribo wrote:Are you suggesting that we use books because somehow we're not as clever as you are for simply giving your opinion?

No offence was intended. It would be nice if the same could be said of your reply, though your pugilistic stance makes that difficult.
Scribo wrote:It couldn't be, could it, then when dealing with a long dead poet and their civilisation we simply recognise that our viewpoints and responses are somehow not theirs? hm?

Reading critical opinions on long dead poets can certainly help shed light on the differences between a modern perspective and the perspective of the ancients, if that is what you mean, but reading what has been said by critics is never a substitute for reading the poets themselves. This last point is as far as my argument went.
Scribo wrote:This thread is, as the title suggests, for the discussion of books pertaining to the subject and whilst I'm sure it will become littered with personal readings and opinions as it progresses (since such things are necessary) they certainly shan't take main stage here.

By all means let this thread remain a platform for the discussion of books, but be good enough to acknowledge that, in your desire to admonish, you have shown as much willingness to take the thread off-topic as I have.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby daivid » Wed Oct 16, 2013 10:42 pm

Victor wrote:No offence was intended. It would be nice if the same could be said of your reply, though your pugilistic stance makes that difficult.


It is always good to keep reminding ourselves of the two iron laws of the internet:

Anything you write will be read by others as being less friendly than you intended.
Anything you read will have been written with a much more friendly intent than comes over to you.

(And this is advice is very much "Do as I say rather than as I do" :( )
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:43 pm

Happily would we follow David's wise words. However I'm going to have to ask you to re-read your statement if you honestly feel that was ok...well...Whatever, as I've stated, this is off topic now so let's steer back.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby mwh » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:40 pm

Scribo ergo stumm?

For the Aeneid, Horsfall can be tough going but is full of idiosyncratic delights. But Austin's commentaries, though now pretty old, do not pale. A scholar who loved literature, and it shows. (The only thing to be said against him is that he could be held responsible for the comparative neglect, until recently, of the books he didn't cover.)
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby mwh » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:42 pm

Scribo ergo stumm?

For the Aeneid, Horsfall can be tough going but is full of idiosyncratic delights. But Austin's commentaries, though now pretty old, do not pale. A scholar who loved literature, and it shows. (The only thing to be said against him is that he could be held responsible for the comparative neglect, until recently, of the books he didn't cover.)
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby gregf » Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:10 pm

Wonderful thread, thanks guys! Might I be so bold as to ask, in a similar vein, for five or six titles specifically on Homer, for a classics oriented but still less than professional academic readership? Say you were going to teach a seminar on Homer and Greek epic poetry to a group of highly-motivated undergraduates, what books would you put on your syllabus as "classics" in the field?

(Perhaps I should start another thread for this?)
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:55 pm

As far as I understand, that's exactly the sort of thing this thread is meant for, Greg...

The "real" classics in Homer I haven't read myself. Newer books keep mentioning them, so you pretty much know what's in them without even reading them (I guess). Such are F. A. Wolf's Prolegomena ad Homerum (from the 18th century, an English translation came out in the 80's) and Milman Parry's The Making of Homeric Verse.

Homer books which I guess fit into that category (a couple of these are probably only accessible through a (university) library, since they are expensive/unavailable). Just a couple of books that come to my mind at random; though only the first two I can recommend to beginners without any reserve:

- Jasper Griffin: Homer: The Odyssey. A good all-round introduction to the Odyssey. As the title suggests, doesn't cover the Iliad, though there's much overlap of course...
- The Homer Encyclopedia. An up-to-date coverage of about any subject of Homer in encyclopedia form. For lay people and specialists alike. Three parts, £350 on Amazon.co.uk.
- Ann Amory Parry: Blameless Aegisthus. For students who are maybe a bit more advanced. The author set out to show that the Homeric epithet isn't as pointless as it seems, only often we don't understand them. She takes ἀμύμων as a case in point and shows it doesn't mean 'blameless'. This book is for someone who's particularly interested about Homeric epithets. Old book, hard to get probably without a good library.
- Denys Page: Folk Tales in Homer's Odyssey. This book might be old-fashioned in some respects, but it definitely might interest somebody.

Then there's a great number of commentaries to help you get through the Greek texts, on individual books or longer chunks of text.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Tue Oct 22, 2013 6:15 pm

Perfectly fine question, though I would assume such undergraduates (if they're Classics UGs) would get involved in the "proper" stuff straight away. I also know departments other than Classics will teach the Odyssey in translation and pair it with a lot of stuff on reception and narratology which I can't really comment on I'm afraid. I would basically suggest something like:

Jasper Griffin "Homer on Life and Death" - a brilliant book which translates, I think, all the passages from Homer. It includes copious parallels, comments from the scholia and some wonderful readings etc, everyone here so far has rightly praised it. I worry about availability and price though.

B. Graziosi and J Haubold "Homer: The Resonance of Epic". A wonderful book meant to introduce the newbie to the different aspects of oral transmission and performance.

H Clarke "The Art of the Odyssey" is a good introduction if you can get it cheap enough, might be worth to substitute Griffin's student's introduction to the Odyssey, it has an excellent section on comparative epic and mentions folk motifs and such like. Though I admit I don't remember the book very well.

I think, roughly, that would be it. I should say that obviously a half decent commentary like Wilcock's to follow. I also ought to recommend Redfield's "Nature and Culture in the Iliad" as a popular book. The companions out there are often useful too, the Cambridge Companion to Homer covers a variety of interesting topics and is quite a thorough introduction.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby gregf » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:01 pm

Wonderful, thank you. I'm noting all of these down, and I'll be purchasing a good deal of them. (I'm hesitating between making 2014 a Homer year or a Heidegger year; as a Germanist, I'm much further along in the latter. ;) ) In any case, please feel free to throw in the "proper" Homeralia as well, I'll be reading the Greek text, using the Brenner and Seymour commentaries from Perseus (in the software from Logos) so anything on Epic Greek, archaeology, history, etc. is highly welcome.

Now that I think about it, maybe I should have said an introductory graduate level class syllabus. I've taken to reading the BMCR reviews as they're sent out every day, a real treasure trove of classics books.
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby mwh » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:37 pm

Companions and such, however odious their proliferation in many ways is, are very useful, for teachers and students alike. The Oxford Companion makes a differently oriented counterweight to the Cambridge one, and there's also Powell-Morris New Companion to Homer (meant to replace the Wace-Stubbings classic), harshly reviewed by Janko in BMCR but covering a lot of ground. The new Homer Encyclopedia has been mentioned; that's a must-have. (I should declare a minor interest in these last two, but I gain nothing from sales. It's the publishers of these things that rake in all the money.)

Some of the single-author books mentioned are very dated (well, all except Graziosi-Haubold, really). Page is old-fashioned in all respects, and his rhetoric seems tiresome today. (Not that he wasn't a great scholar.) I'm not surprised that Scribo doesn't well remember Clarke's Odyssey book. It's the least memorable book on Homer I've ever read. (I am surprised he commends Griffin; I'd have expected him to damn him as a bloody aesthete; but then I'm only just getting to know you guys.) You'll be wanting to introduce your students to different critical approaches (you can't get by without confronting narratology, for instance, and the oral/literate question keeps shifting its dimensions and contours, as does historicity), but the Companions and the Encyclopedia will guide you here, and possibly give you all you need. They're expensive; just be sure your library has them and you have them on hand. There ought to be a good book on Homeric style, but I can't think of one.

Some commentators are better than others (I don't know the Brenner and Seymour ones; Leaf is on Perseus isn't he?), and of course they're pitched at different levels. Willcock is excellent if you're reading in translation, and maybe even if you're not. I expect you'll want to expose your students to some really good commentary. Of the Cambridge Iliad comms Janko's is generally considered the best (a judgment I'd agree with, without putting down any of the others except maybe Kirk's), and is certainly the most engaging. For the Odyssey there's the three-volume set by Heubeck and others, internally differing according to individual commentator in a more pronounced way than the Cambridge Iliad set. I'm assuming you can't count on knowledge of any language other than English, but when it comes to Homer English-speakers are truly blessed. Don't know what you're proposing to read, or how much.

I'll leave it to others to recommend particular books. But Graziosi's Inventing Homer, not so much about Homer as about "Homer" in the archaic and classical periods, is a breath of fresh air.

You said "Homer and Greek Epic Poetry." If that's what you meant, of course there's Hesiod, the Cycle and other early epic, and the Homeric Hymns, all these now with excellent Loebs by Glenn Most (Hes.) and Martin West (early epic and H.H.), to go no further forward. It's a lot for a single seminar!
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Re: Books of a Nature not Necessarily Academic but Nice*

Postby Scribo » Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:01 am

Well obviously Page et al may be a bit old fashioned but that's kind of what this thread is about, not necessarily the stuff you'd find on proper reading lists. Also what would be a good recommendation in lieu of page for things like folktales then? Only Page on the Odyssey, Carpenter on the Iliad and, famously, Kakridis in both come to mind. I can think of some modern articles by M. Davies and I think one article in the New Brill Companion mentions folktales but that's it. The problem is the more modern you get the more you rely on article format.

Ah I'm not going to damn Griffin, I think aesthete or not it's a very solid book and I find it much more palatable than modern broad treatments of the poet. I also think the book is much less guilty than his seminal article on the epic cycle which is quite damning on aesthetic grounds of his material and I guess it's easier to side with Burgess, Marks et al on this stuff.

I also think the Homeric Encyclopaedia is, again, probably a bit much at around £350 or so. I do agree I like it however and there are so many great articles there.

I think the only sensible way to introduce people to modern critical approaches probably would be the companions, I mean there's a chapter on narratology in the Brill Comp which is easily digestible whereas reading De Jong's stuff can be time consuming. Actually I really do like both companions, the more literary Cambs one and the Brill's. I'm not sure what you mean by Oxford companion, do you mean the selection of "readings"? In which case yes that should be read if only for Burkert on Rhapsodes, Griffin on the Epic Cycle and Morris and the abuse of Homer.

On specific topics it's hard to say, hard to draw up a short bibliography. I mean for Homer and history/archaeology I'd want said student to have a decent knowledge of both the Mycenaean period and the 8-7th centuries - which rely on his archaeology tutors doing their job first. Then I'd want a decent knowledge of Homeric language....there are a myriad studies to recommend but I think given the context West's "Rise of the Greek Epic" article is a decent pick and then something on oral transmission - which is an area classical scholars are pretty crap at so we'd have to turn to anthropologists for oral traditions, psychologists for cultural memory and so on because I really don't trust classicists with this.

Homer and Greek Epic is a great idea, just because it includes so much. The great loebs have been recommended above me so I'd go on to recommend Burgess on the Tradition of the Trojan War and the Epic Cycle (I think it's called) and then to chase up individual bits of bibliography depending on what poems you like. Hesiod has his own mammoth bibliography, for the hymns there is a recent collection of edited articles by Faulkner which are interested and Hunter has an amazing collection of edited articles on the katalogos.
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