2019.01.16 | By Gregory Nagy
This posting for 2019.01.16 is Part Two of a long-term project that I started in the posting for 2019.01.08, which is Part One of that project. In Part One, I was analyzing various examples of ancient texts composed by male authors who playfully imitate Sappho by appropriating aspects of her songs in their own literary creations. Here in Part Two, I analyze further examples, and the numbering of my paragraphs continues from where I left off at the concluding paragraph §33 of Part One. As I already noted in that paragraph, Part Two of my analysis here will center on the erotic novel Daphnis and Chloe, attributed to a man named Longus, who has conventionally been dated to the second century CE. His novel, as I will argue, is a playful exercise in showing how to soften the potential for hard-core pornographic appropriations of female sexuality by ancient male authors in their imitations of Sappho’s songs. In the course of my argumentation, I will at times view this ancient Greek novel through the metaphorical lens of a modern Italian film, Cinema Paradiso.
2019.01.08 | By Gregory Nagy
§0. This essay is the first in a set of consecutive postings that will have the same title, differentiated as Part One, Part Two, and so on. The first two words in the title of each posting derive from an earlier essay, Nagy 2015.10.15, where I analyzed the theorizing of Aristotle about the human propensity to imitate. I highlighted in that essay the interest that Aristotle takes in primal attempts at imitation, which go back to the earliest phases of childhood. For Aristotle, as I pointed out, childish imitation is at the root of human playfulness. It was in the context of making this point that I had first played with the pseudo-scientific term Homo ludens. In the present context, I make use of that same term again as I proceed to focus on the playfulness I find in ancient literary creations that imitate Sappho.
2018.12.27 | By Gregory Nagy
I challenge myself here to write up seven elementary “plot outlines”—I call them overviews—for seven Greek tragedies: (1) Agamemnon and (2) Libation-Bearers and (3) Eumenides, by Aeschylus; (4) Oedipus at Colonus and (5) Oedipus Tyrannus, by Sophocles; (6) Hippolytus and (7) Bacchae (or Bacchic Women), by Euripides. In my overviews, I expect of the reader no previous knowledge of these seven tragedies.
2018.12.21 | By Gregory Nagy
In Classical Inquiries 2017.06.26, I published an online essay entitled “Mages and Ionians.” This piece drew on the same research that I presented, in part, for the panel “Ethnicity and Multiculturalism in Herodotus: Through Others’ Eyes,” at the Ninth Celtic Conference in Classics, University College Dublin, June 2016. The proceedings of the discussions linked to that panel are to be published in a forthcoming volume edited by Thomas J. Figueira. My contribution to the volume is entitled “Mages and Ionians revisited,” and the posting that I present here is a preview of that contribution, which will be a rethinking of the earlier essay “Mages and Ionians,” in further exploration of Greek ethnic identity.
Two small comments on Catullus Two: an iconic effect and an expression of delight in what is beautiful
2018.12.13 | By Gregory Nagy
§0. As I contemplate the vast buildup of secondary bibliography documenting countless interpretations of “Catullus Two”—as Classicists normally call this poem—I struggle under the weight, looking for ways to break free by simply expressing the delight I experience whenever I re-read Catullus 2. The comments I offer here are merely two examples of such experiences. But I must already now highlight one thing that these examples have in common: they both have something to do with Sappho.
2018.12.12 | Introduced by Gregory Nagy
It is such an honor for me to be given the opportunity of introducing a set of poems by Agathí Dimitroúka (Αγαθή Δημητρούκα), presented here in Modern Greek. The editor of Classical Inquiries, Keith Stone, tells me of plans to commission translations of these exquisite poems into other languages, including English, but for now the pristine charm of the poetry can already be savored in the original Greek. The poetic power of the words crafted here by my friend Agathí can best be appreciated from a diachronic point of view, since she connects so artfully the classical legacy with the dynamic presence of modern Hellenism. Of course it is hard for me to choose favorites, because I so treasure every part of this cohesive set of poems, but I cannot resist highlighting one of them: it is the poem about the doomed love of Phaedra for Hippolytus, where the wording of our poet evokes not only the ethereal poetry of Euripides but also the down-to-earth prose of Pausanias—on both of which sources I offer background here. We see clearly in this poem of Agathí Dimitroúka—as also in all her poetry—her passionate engagement with the uncompromising beauty of life as a fusion of pain and delight.