Most recent update:6/1/2004; 5:09:00 AM

 Sunday, May 23, 2004
CHATTER: On the Cusp of a Revolution?

The New York Times has a good piece by Bruce Weber suggesting Classicists should embrace all the publicity associated with Troy etc. (yay! I've been beating that drum for years). Here's the last bit:

Indeed, "Troy" is a film that makes you think about the uses to which an academic grounding in the classics can be put these days. Send the alert to the dead language departments in the Ivy League: You can make a living. In the entertainment business.

Four years ago the Coen brothers adapted "The Odyssey" and turned it into a bluegrass picaresque, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" O.K., it was a pretty loose adaptation - John Goodman in an eye patch as a 20th-century Cyclops is about as parallel as it gets - but somebody had to come up with the idea of John Goodman in an eye patch.

Since then, the trickle of interest in millenniums past has grown from a trickle to a sprinkle: we've had "Gladiator," a television remake of "Spartacus" and that Mel Gibson movie in the original Aramaic. Both Oliver Stone and Baz Luhrmann are directing movies about Alexander the Great.

Of course, you can't really call the new works a trend; the movies have been making tales of togas and chariots for decades, from "Ben-Hur" to "Animal House."

But it is gladdening in more ways than one. At least some of the source material remains beyond reproach. Better "The Aeneid" than "The Flintstones," after all. And it keeps words like coliseum and Caesar from recalling only auto shows and anchovies.

Finally, if the movies and television are going to be mining the great works of antiquity and antiquity itself for story ideas, someone's got to translate them for the consumers of popular culture.

The point is, people who go to movies may be too young or indifferent to be familiar with the classics, but the people who make the movies can't be. They need to know their stuff. They need to know Latin and Greek as well as how to talk to Valley girls.

They need to know, for example, that "Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles " is the opening of "The Iliad," even if they choose to reject it for being too poetic and oblique. In "Troy," the line the screenwriter David Benioff came up with instead - Odysseus, speaking in voice-over: "Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity" - is an exquisite specimen of contemporary popspeak, so overpowering in its empty profundity that virtually everyone can pretend to understand it.

Actually, pop culture offers other opportunities as well, namely for critics; we need writers who can make clear and entertaining the links between these two disparate eras in which the word Trojan has such different connotations. We would benefit from a scholar's take, for example, on those Sunday night HBO series.

What is "Six Feet Under" if not a contemporary study of funerary ritual - an exhumation of the issue that consumed the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, the passage between life and afterlife. And "Sex and the City"? Surely, the decadence in dress and behavior recall Rome under Caligula.

Granted, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" has no classical antecedent. But "The Sopranos" is rooted in "The Oresteia," the progenitor of all family tragedies.

Uncle Junior is Nestor-like, the very embodiment of wisdom, no? The two Tonys have that Agamemnon and Menelaus thing going, sibling loyalty and love tempered by rivalry and frustration. In Paulie Walnuts, the dumb brute warrior, we have a clear descendant of Ajax. And Carmela, betrayed to the breaking point, is Clytemnestra. You think that first initial is coincidence?

No? I go too far? Well, perhaps a tendency to overreach is my Achilles' heel. But I like it that the classics survive, even in movies like "Troy." I like to think they remain the sources of our storytelling. I like to think that the references are everywhere, that the ones I've suggested here are incidental, a drop in the wine-dark sea. [the whole thang]

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The APA's job listings for May have been posted; we'll be posting some to our bulletin board later in the week.
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BLOGWATCH: Blogosphere

A new Classics blog has hit the e-waves called Blogographos by the author of Trying Neaira ... here's the official description:

logographos (lo-go-GRA-fos): in ancient Athens, someone who composed forensic speeches professionally
blogographos: a reader of or participant in

Blogographos is a public blog to which anyone interested in Greek and Roman antiquity may post. This means interested laymen as well as professional classicists and students.

Of interest to many will be Debra Hamel's listings of summer education opportunities in Classics. I encourage Rogueclassicism's readers to make use of Blogographos ... perhaps you're itching to discuss or comment on something you've seen here; Blogographos would be a good place.

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HUMOUR: Troy in Fifteen Minutes

This one's been making the rounds of the various lists and is definitely hilarious. It's a parody of Troy ... it does have some 'language', so you probably shouldn't be reading it at school. Troy in Fifteen Minutes is the brainspawn of of Cleolinda Jones, who has a blog called Short Attention Span Theater where you can read similiter of other flicks too. Good stuff.
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... this is really getting annoying
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NEWSLETTER: Ancient World on Television

The weekly version of our Ancient World on Television listings have been posted ... enjoy!
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grumble ... again
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NEWSLETTER: Explorator 7.04

Issue 7.04 of Explorator has been posted ... Enjoy!
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AWOTV: On TV Today

5.00 p.m. |HISTU| The True Story of Troy
It's the site of history's most legendary war and the Western
world's oldest adventure story. According to myth, it began with a
rigged beauty contest and ended with a giant wooden horse unleashing
utter destruction. Now, archaeologists, literary detectives, and
military analysts are uncovering evidence suggesting the war was
really waged. From archaeological trenches at ancient Troy and the
citadel fortress of King Agamemnon, from Homer to Hollywood, we
search for the true story of Troy.

8.00 p.m. |HINT| The Roman Conquests
Although Caesar invaded it in 54 BC, Britain wasn't conquered until
43 BC when Claudius established Roman garrisons at Lincoln, York, and
Chester. Viewers go inside this savage period in British history and
enter the battlefield from an unique perspective--of those who fought
and died there. And a bloody period it proved to be for the Romans
had not reckoned on the fierce and bloody campaign mounted against
the all-powerful Legions under the leadership of the legendary Queen

Channel Guide

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Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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