Ancient Greek Literature
August 2004, Polity
Whitmarsh offers new readings of some of the best-known and most
influential authors of Greek antiquity, including Sophocles,
Euripides, Herodotus, Aristophanes and Plato, as well as
introducing many lesser-known figures. Unlike conventional
narrative histories, this volume focuses on the profound
effects of literature within Greek society. Whitmarsh shows
that literature, distributed via a range of social institutions,
such as festivals, theatres, symposia and book production, played
an important role in the legitimization – and challenging
– of ideologies of gender, class and cultural identity. The
volume also addresses the legacy of Greek literature: how the
Victorian cult of Hellenism and its successors have structured the
reception of ancient texts, and how and why the modern West has
adopted the Greeks as its ancestors.
This book will be important reading for undergraduates, in their first year and above, of ancient Greek literature and culture. All texts in the volume are translated, and no knowledge of ancient Greek literature is assumed.
Section one: concepts.
1) ‘Greek literature’ and cultural history.
2) The problem of tradition.
Section two: contexts.
6) The power of speech.
7) Inventing the archive: Athens.
8) Building the archive: Alexandria.
9) Reading from the archive: Roman Greece.
Section three: conflicts.
10) Inventing the Greek.
11) A woman’s place.
12) Sexing the text.
13) Status and slavery.
Chronology of Greek Literature.
Index of Greek Authors.
- an up-to-date, accessible and comprehensive introduction to
ancient Greek literature;
- provides new interpretations of canonical texts alongside
background information on the society which produced them;
- integrates cutting-edge research into a clear and engaging account.
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"We have long needed an up-to-date survey of Greek literature as
an expression of Greek culture, and Whitmarsh has provided us with
an outstanding introduction. He covers a wide range of texts, and
employs the latest methods of literary and cultural analysis. His
mastery of these approaches is apparent on every page, as he
elegantly discusses questions of class, gender, the public versus
the private sphere, oral versus written traditions, and much
David Konstan, Brown University
"Ancient Greek Literature is a scintillating discussion
of the central issues and themes that cluster around literary
texts. Whitmarsh?s own literary style is aptly pungent, witty and
probing, and his focus on texts as battlegrounds of power
relationships or sites of social dispute will surely prove as
provocative and challenging as it is intended to be. Among his many
other original findings is his notion of the "archive": that is,
the creation, from the fifth century BCE onwards, of a defined body
of texts and set of institutions devoted to fostering the Greeks?
sense of literature?s central place in defining their identity. The
chronological discussion is complemented by four thematic chapters
that systematically explore the topics of cultural identity, the
place allocated to women, gender issues and images of the
subordinated classes of the poor and unfree."
Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge