Achilles as Epic Hero and the Idea of Total Recall in Song

Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy, from a panoramic fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion, painting by Franz Matsch, 1892 / Photo by Dr.K., Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The[…]

Learning to Read the Classics

A Reading from Homer (1885) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1885 / Philadelphia Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Jean Bollack (deceased) French Philosopher, Philologist, and Literary Critic When I started out, I found it hard to distinguish writing projects from re-elaborations of subject matter, and I failed to pay sufficient attention to the breaks, large or very[…]

The Homeric Iliad and the Glory of the Unseasonal Hero

Ajax defending the ships of the Greeks. After a drawing by John Flaxman / Image via H.P. Haack, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University The meaning of kleos Achilles and Agamemnon, Scene from Iliad Book I.  Mosaic, Pompeii /[…]

Elizabeth Bisland’s Race Around the World

Elizabeth Bisland at the time of her trip, from the frontispiece to In Seven Stages / Author’s own scan. Exploring the life and writings of Elizabeth Bisland, an American journalist propelled into the limelight when she set out in 1889 – head-to-head with fellow journalist Nellie Bly – on a journey to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictitious 80-day circumnavigation[…]

Encounter at the Crossroads of Europe: The Fellowship of Zweig and Verhaeren

Stefan Zweig / Creative Commons By Will Stone / 12.02.2013 Poet, Translator ‘Friendship stands highest on the forehead of humanity…’ Keats I While still at school, Stefan Zweig had tried his hand at translating a number of French and Belgian poets, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Baudelaire, but also another name almost unknown to us today, Emile[…]

An Introduction to Homeric Poetry

By Dr. Gregory Nagy Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director, Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University Iliad, Book VIII, lines 245–53, Greek manuscript, late 5th, early 6th centuries AD / Public Domain Homeric poetry is a cover term for two epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The major part of this introduction will deal[…]

A Journey through Homer’s Odyssey

Nestor’s Sacrifice (1805). Engraving after John Flaxman (1755-1826). Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996. / Creative Commons By Louise Taylor / 05.06.2013 TEFL Educator Southwest France Books One through Eight Telemachus’ Troubles Books I through VIII of Homer’s Epic is where the story of[…]

Greek and Roman Mythology – What is Myth?

The Dance of the Muses at Mount Helicon by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1807). Hesiod cites inspiration from the Muses while on Mount Helicon. / Alte Nationalgalerie By Louise Taylor / 06.21.2013 TEFL Educator Southwest France What is Myth? Mythologies come from many different cultures across the old world but we are going to concentrate on the Greeks and the Romans. “Myth” is one[…]

Lost in Translation: Proust and Scott Moncrieff

Portrait of Marcel Proust painted by Jacques-Émile Blanche in 1892, when Proust was 21 years old. / Wikimedia Commons Scott Moncrieff’s English translation of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu is widely hailed as a masterpiece in its own right. His rendering of the title as Remembrance of Things Past is not, however, considered a high point. William[…]

The World According to Conrad

“I’m drawn to people who don’t fit neatly into boxes,” says Professor Maya Jasanoff about the subject of her new book, Joseph Conrad (pictured, Wikimedia Commons) Professor Maya Jasanoff embraced adventure to explore the mind behind Heart of Darkness and other classics. By Jill Radsken / 11.22.2017 Maya Jasanoff has traveled in 70 countries, the 70th[…]

Into the Woods with Shakespeare

The Shakespearean Forest reimagines the real forests that our greatest playwright evoked in his works. The final book of renowned scholar, Anne Barton, it explores the changeable and sometimes sinister presence of the forest in literature and culture. 10.02.2017 Fear and forests, writes Shakespeare scholar Professor Anne Barton, go hand in hand. Forests are where we get lost[…]

The World of Gilgamesh

The Deluge tablet of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian By Danielle Dencio / 2007 The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest epics in world literature. It is inscribed on twelve clay tablets in cuneiform. The earliest verses were composed in Southern Mesopotamia before 2000B.C. The most complete version of the epic was found in the[…]

Evil and Urizen: William Blake’s Visions of a Demiurge

By Dr. Daniil Leiderman / 07.22.2017 Instructional Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture Texas A&M University William Blake is justifiably considered to be among the greatest of England’s poets and artists. His place in the books of art history is assured despite his general disengagement from any definable movement, except perhaps romanticism, to which he belonged[…]

How a Young Ernest Hemingway Dealt with His First Taste of Fame

Ernest Hemingway with a bull near Pamplona, Spain in 1927, two years before ‘A Farewell to Arms’ would be published. Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston By Dr. Verna Kale / 11.12.2017 Associate Editor, The Letter of Ernest Hemingway Assistant Research Professor of English Pennsylvania State University When he published “The[…]

When Stories Add Up: The Six Narrative Arcs in Fiction

Classic narratives. From Cinderella, 1950. Photo by Rex Features By Veronique Greenwood / 11.18.2016 In recent years, literature has been getting attention from an unusual quarter: mathematics. Alongside statistical physicists analysing the connections between characters in the Icelandic sagas, and computer scientists exploring the life and death of words in English fiction, a team of mathematicians at the University of[…]

Race and the White Elephant War of 1884

P. T. Barnum’s white elephant Toung Taloung, featured in an extra supplement to the Illustrated London News, January 26th 1884 / Wikimedia Commons Feuding impresarios, a white-but-not-white-enough elephant, and racist ads for soap — Ross Bullen on how a bizarre episode in circus history became an unlikely forum for discussing 19th-century theories of race, and inadvertently[…]

Jewish Sources in the Narrative of Abraham in the ‘General estoria’

San Fernando Valley Credit: Oakshade, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. David A. Wacks / 05.24.2017 Professor of Spanish Department of Romance Languages University of Oregon I wrote about the influence of Jewish exegesis in the development of fictionality, that is, those aspects of prose fiction that serve to enhance the as-if function of fiction and make possible the suspension of disbelief required[…]

On Thoreau’s 200th Birthday, a Gift for Botany

Hundreds of new images from Thoreau’s collection of plant specimens will be available for viewing online. “I think it’s fair to say that the data that live inside these cabinets has been dark for far too long,” said Charles Davis (pictured), director of the Harvard University Herbaria. / Jon Chase, Harvard Staff Photographer By Alvin Powell[…]

The Harvard in Thoreau

A Houghton Library exhibit contains ephemera related to poet and scholar Henry David Thoreau, such as this annotated 1854 copy of “Walden, or Life in the Woods,” owned by a friend of Thoreau. / Stephanie Mitchell, Harvard Staff Photographer As the bicentennial of his birth nears, it’s clear the College influenced him more than he’d have[…]

Kumeyaay Native American Oral Literature, Cultural Identity, and Language Revitalisation

Kumeyaay coiled basket, woven by Celestine Lachapa, 19th century / Photo by Durova (Wikimedia Commons), San Diego Museum of Man   By Dr. Margaret Field / 12.19.2013 Professor of American Indian Studies San Diego State University The Kumeyaay Community of Baja California Anthony Pico, PhD, tribal chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, speaking at[…]

Decoding the Morse: The History of 16th-Century Narcoleptic Walruses

Woodcut of the morse from Olaus Magnus’ Historiae de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (1558 edition) / archive.org Amongst the assorted curiosities described in Olaus Magnus’ 1555 tome on Nordic life was the morse — a hirsuite, fearsome walrus-like beast, that was said to snooze upon cliffs while hanging by its teeth. Natalie Lawrence explores the career of[…]