Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:07:31 AM

 Saturday, March 20, 2004

NUNTII: Crocodile Remains at Naples!

According to a report at the Italian site News2000, which quotes from the Corriere del Mezzogiorno (which is not online, near as I can tell), the remains of a crocodile have been found at the subway construction site where they have been excavating those Roman ships. The report is lacking in the sort of details we'd like, but there is speculation that the remains might have something to do with a legend associated with Maschio Angioino, where those who displeased the king were tossed to a crocodile. It seems more likely -- depending on the association (if any) with the Roman ships -- that this was probably a beastie destined for a wild beast hunt vel simm.. If anyone can point to a more detailed report on this one, please do!

12:46:28 PM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Classical Relevancies

The New York Times has a piece by Laura Miller which ponders (sort of) the relevance of Classics and the omnipresent comparisons of the U.S. with the ancient world. Here's the first and last paragraphs:

Relevance is a siren's song to the classical historian. It promises to transform a struggling scholar in a field seen as esoteric if estimable into a guy like Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist-cum-farmer who consults for the Pentagon and just sold a new history of the Peloponnesian War for a half-million dollars. Hanson landed the contract even though Donald Kagan, the author of the definitive four-volume work on the same war, recently published a 500-page version intended for the general reader. This Peloponnesian mania is understandable among classicists; the war between Athens and Sparta tore the ancient world apart and was the chosen subject of one of the greatest early historians, Thucydides. For the general reader, though, the urgent need to learn more about the 27-year-long conflict remains far from clear. [...]

Everyone wants to be the Greeks -- democratic if disorderly, cultured if impulsive. Nobody wants to be the Romans, with their well-oiled war machine, their vaunted sobriety and their frank imperial ambitions. But even in books intent on characterizing contemporary America as either one, it's possible to find as many differences as similarities. We have a republic, for one example, not the direct democracy of Athens, and our enfranchised citizens include people excluded from the government of both. American politics at the dawn of the 21st century doesn't resemble the shambles of the late Roman Republic. Furthermore, it's hard to find legitimate parallels between the territorial battles of the Greeks and Romans and today's ''war'' on terrorism, a fight against small groups of stateless, elusive enemies who target civilians using unconventional weapons. Ancient history has to be bent pretty far to meet that comparison, and one of these days it might just snap back.  [read the whole thing]

6:16:16 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

REVIEW: Iphigenia's Song

The Globe and Mail has a review of Judith Fitzgerald, Adagio: Iphigenia's Song which might be of interest to some. Here's the incipit:

Female sacrifice at the hands of fathers, filial or political, is a hallmark of classical Western mythology. The story of Iphigenia is but one example of this theme. According to Greek myth, Iphigenia's father, Agamemnon, angered the hunter-goddess Artemis with boasts that his prowess with the bow exceeded her own. Artemis retaliated by staying the winds as Agamemnon set out for Troy. To appease Artemis and thereby save his own hide, Agamemnon offered his daughter as a sacrifice. Though not addressed in either The Iliad or The Odyssey, Iphigenia's betrayal is the subject of two plays by Euripides: Iphigenia at Aulis and Iphigenia at Tauris. It also supplies the allegorical template for the first book in Judith Fitzgerald's Adagios Quartet: Adagios: Iphigenia's Song.

Iphigenia, "girl of tears," laments in Euripides's latter work, "From the hour I was conceived, over my childhood/ The hand of Fate lay hard." The mythic text of Iphigenia's manifold pain is the document upon which Fitzgerald cross-writes her own childhood anguish and the dire price it continues to exact. This is not speculation. The book's back-cover copy states that Fitzgerald "uses this classic myth as a metaphor for her own life, of the abuses she suffered as a child, of the pain that all children must endure." And certainly, the fact of her trauma is explicit in the poems. It goes without saying, of course, that we don't have access to "her own life," but only to her poems. We must depend on the aesthetic success of the work to open our own tremulous acquaintance with the awful yaw of ache that inspired it.

Fitzgerald braids her experience with Iphigenia's in a sway between verse and prose that follows a classical tradition of prosimetric writing. But while Iphigenia's story foregrounds Hellenic distances crossed, Fitzgerald's is one of passing time. The tumble of words giving way to measured lines denotes a movement through states of mind that is at times a sad wander, at times a terrified lurch. The shifts rock her; she must periodically exhort herself to "breathe goddamnit breathe." As Iphigenia's body is sacrificed, so the poet's body is offered up to the terrible power of elementary betrayal. And this by her own hand: "you may/ call me Slasher when the steel ambit gleams." The book is moist with blood and vined with scars. This compulsion to externalize, to make visible and thus control a psychic hurt, is itself a kind of writing.

In its baroque diction, alliterative play and fetishistic returns, Iphigenia's Song calls to mind the work of Susan Mitchell. Fitzgerald's jouissance, however, is the Thanatos to Mitchell's Eros, worrying the perfidy and pain that lurk on the fringes of love. Both writers employ the precise uncommon words too often tossed into the bin of the "academic." Heaven knows, the use of challenging language is no failing. In Fitzgerald's case, though, the impulse to set language to the task of naming her anguish, of pinning despair's ears back and showing us its teeth, can end up crowding its potential clout off the page. In these instances her demand "Give me meaning or give me death" -- despite the tone of desperate bravado to which this line may allude -- suggests why her evocations of dread are sometimes scuttled. [more]

5:59:56 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

... nothing of interest

5:55:14 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

Site Meter