Forms of Astonishment: Greek Myths of Metamorphosis

Overview

In this illustrated study Richard Buxton analyses Greek literary narratives and visual representations of the metamorphosis of humans and goods, as evidenced from Homer to Nonnos. Such tales have become familiar in their Ovidian dress, as in the best-selling translation by Ted Hughes; Buxton explores their Greek antecedents. He investigates such issues as: How do different contexts shape the way in which metamorphosis is narrated? How do the assumption of commentators about 'strangeness' affect how metamorphosis ...

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Overview

In this illustrated study Richard Buxton analyses Greek literary narratives and visual representations of the metamorphosis of humans and goods, as evidenced from Homer to Nonnos. Such tales have become familiar in their Ovidian dress, as in the best-selling translation by Ted Hughes; Buxton explores their Greek antecedents. He investigates such issues as: How do different contexts shape the way in which metamorphosis is narrated? How do the assumption of commentators about 'strangeness' affect how metamorphosis is interpreted? How far should an interpreter allow 'contextual charity' to render more acceptable a belief such as that in metamorphosis? What are the implications of the notion of 'astonishment' (Greek: thambos) in a range of narratives about transformation?

Throughout Forms of Astonishment Buxton draws comparisons between the Greek evidence and data from other religious traditions, ancient and modern; he also introduces comparative material from the sciences, from modern painting and literature, and from the cinema and computer graphics. In investigating metamorphoses of gods Buxton revisits the concept of anthropomorphism, arguing that the fact that Greek divinities where believed to change shape does not undermine the fundamentally humanlike form to Greek divinity. He also examines certain strands of Greek tradition, particularly among the philosophers, which called metamorphosis into question, whether in relation to the gods or to humans. Individual chapters deal with transformations into the landscape and into plants or trees-in the latter case transformation stories are set against a background of cultural beliefs about 'seminal' substances such as blood and tears. Overall Forms of Astonishment raises issues relevant to an understanding of broad aspects of Greek culture, and illuminates issues explored by anthropologists and students of religion.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199245499
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/21/2009
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Buxton is Professor of Greek Language and Literature at the University of Bristol.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations x

Translations and Transliterations xiv

Abbreviations xv

Introduction 1

I Narratives and Their Contexts

1 The Odyssey 29

2 Athenian Drama 49

3 Visual Arts 76

4 Hellenistic Transformations 110

5 Post-Hellenistic Narratives 135

II The Logic of Transformation

6 Shapes of the Gods 157

7 The Human Aetiology of Landscape 191

8 Plants, Trees, and Human Form 210

9 Challenges to the Metamorphic Tradition 231

10 Final Thoughts on Contexts 248

Bibliography 253

Index 269

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