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Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood

ISBN: 978-1-4051-2635-9
280 pages
April 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood (1405126353) cover image
Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood is a comprehensive literary biography of Helen of Troy, which explores the ways in which her story has been told and retold in almost every century from the ancient world to the modern day.
  • Takes readers on an epic voyage into the literary representations of a woman who has wielded a great influence on Western cultural consciousness for more than three millennia
  • Features a wide and diverse variety of literary sources, including epic, drama, novels, poems, film, comedy, and opera, and works by Homer, Euripides, Chaucer, Shakespeare
  • Includes an analysis of a radio play by the prize-winning author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and a Faust play by a contemporary Scottish playwright
  • Explores themes such as narrative difficulties in portraying Helen, how legal history relates to her story, and how writers apportion blame or exculpate her
  • Considers the aesthetic and narrative difficulties that ensue when literature translates myth
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List of Illustrations

Preface

Source Acknowledgments

Conventions

Introduction: Ab ovo

Beginnings

Stories and Contexts

1. Narrating Myth

Whose Story?

Absence

Fragments and Narrative

Closure

The Textual Shudder

Myth and Repetition

Origins

Myth and Meaning

Causes

(En)Closure

2. Beauty

Excess and Deficiency

Narrating the Absolute

Staging the Absolute

Detailing Helen

The Beauty Effect

Helen’s Breasts

Androgyny

Helen’s Scar

Relativizng the Absolute

Helen and Old Age

Beauty: Subjectivity and Objectivity

Beauty and Nostalgia

3. Abducting Helen

Missing Moments

Homer, the Iliad

Herodotus, the Histories

Chaucer and Narrative Gaps

Helen and Cressida

The Law’s Resolution of Women’s Rights (1632)

Statute Change in 1597

The Rape of Lucrece (1594)

Helen (of Troy)

Rape as Revenge

4. Blame

Accounts

Casting Blame: Helen, Paris, and the Gods

Sidestepping Blame: Sympathy in the Iliad

Competing Narratives: the Odyssey

"Twisting Eulogy/And Censure Both Together"

Voicing Helen: Euripides

Helen Among the Sophists

Agency (1): Joseph of Exeter

Agency (2): Middle English Troy Books

George Peele, The Tale of Troy (1589)

Deifying Helen: John Ogle, The Lamentation of Troy (1594)

Mimetic Desire, the Scapegoat, and Blasphemy

Naming and Shaming

5. Helen and the Faust Tradition

Form and Appearance in the English Faust Book

Helen in the English Faust Book

Dr Faustus and Language

Dr Faustus and Boundaries

Goethe (1749–1832)

Goethe and Representation

Goethe and the Beauty of Language

The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships

Jo Clifford (1950– )

Clifford’s Helen and Gender Politics

6. Parodying Helen

Comedy

The Novel

Caribbean Helen: Derek Walcott, Omeros (1990)

Notes

References

Index

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Laurie Maguire is Professor of English at Oxford University and has authored or edited six previous books, including Studying Shakespeare and the popular Where There's a Will There's a Way. She has lectured widely at literary festivals in the U.S. and U.K.
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  • Takes readers on an epic voyage into the literary representations of a woman who has wielded a great influence on Western cultural consciousness for more than three millennia
  • Features a wide and diverse variety of literary sources, including epic, drama, novels, poems, film, comedy, and opera, and works by Homer, Euripides, Chaucer, Shakespeare
  • Includes an analysis of a radio play by the prize-winning author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and a Faust play by a contemporary Scottish playwright
  • Explores themes such as narrative difficulties in portraying Helen, how legal history relates to her story, and how writers apportion blame or exculpate her
  • Considers the aesthetic and narrative difficulties that ensue when literature translates myth
See More
"Overall, Maguire's book is a remarkably broad literary study of the complex and recurring figure of Helen of Troy. Her work is both comprehensive and detailed, covering a huge body of material both ancient and modern." (International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 2011)

"In conclusion, this an important work, especially praiseworthy for its wide-ranging critical perspectives and admirable depth of information, and above all for its all-round literary explorations. It is also a very enjoyable read." (Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 25 March 2011)

"It is an important work in the broad area of Classical Reception and it is aimed at both specialists and the general reader; and it is quite remarkable for the vast variety of information, sources and genres surveyed and for the wealth of secondary literature and critical approaches deployed." (Bmcreview, 7 March 2011)

"Maguire's book is an unusually effective study of something often invoked in an airy sort of way but difficult to represent concretely and cogently: literature and related arts as an ongoing and continuously motivated enterprise, sometimes almost collective in its workings across great stretches of time." (Translation & Literature, 2010)"M.'s survey is impressively broad in scope ... .An impressive achievement." (The Classical Journal, February 2010)

"Erudite and entertaining ... .We are certainly better equipped to understand the phenomenon of such a mysterious narrative lacuna by the end of Maguire's inspirational book." (The Times Literary Supplement, November 2009)

“Combining wit, learning, and insight, Maguire offers delightful reading both for the specialist and for the serious general reader." (Library Journal, May 2009)

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