Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood / Edition 1

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Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood is a comprehensive examination of the ways in which Helen's story has been told and retold from the ancient world to the present day. In this wide-ranging literary biography, Laurie Maguire analyzes ongoing debates about Helen's sexual culpability, as seen through the prism of society's evolving attitudes to issues such as beauty and rape. The aesthetic and narrative difficulties that ensue when literature translates myth are also considered, yet through it all, we see how Helen of Troy's contradictory legacy has transcended the ages and given her an enduring literary existence. Works by Homer, Euripides, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and others are explored, as well as Helen's resurgent popularity in a surprising variety of modern novels, plays, and films.

In an engaging and original new work filled with scholarly insights, Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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)

Library Journal

While the face of Helen of Troy may have launched a thousand ships, it has inspired equally as many depictions. Maguire (English, Univ. of Oxford; How To Do Things with Shakespeare) is concerned with Helen's "literary afterlife," the different ways she has been portrayed in Western literature, from the eighth century B.C.E. (Homer) to the present (Derek Walcott). She is struck by the paradox that while Helen was the cause of so much action, she is often represented only on the narrative margin. Maguire's approach is thematic rather than chronological, including the ambiguities in Helen's mythical story, her beauty, her abduction, her guilt, her role in the Faust tradition, and her presence in various modern parodies. While largely focusing on a rich array of literary sources-classical, medieval, Renaissance, and modern-she also draws on art and film. Combining wit, learning, and insight, Maguire offers delightful reading both for the specialist and for the serious general reader. Highly recommended.
—T.L. Cooksey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781405126359
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 5/11/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

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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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations viii

Preface ix

Source Acknowledgments xv

Conventions xvii

Introduction: Ab ovo 1

Beginnings 1

Stories and Contexts 2

Chapter 1 Narrating Myth 10

Whose Story" 10

Absence 12

Fragments and Narrative 15

Closure 17

The Textual Shudder 20

Myth and Repetition 23

Origins 26

Myth and Meaning 28

Causes 30

(En)Closure 33

Chapter 2 Beauty 35

Excess and Deficiency 35

Narrating the Absolute 39

Staging the Absolute 43

Detailing Helen 45

The Beauty Effect 49

Helen's Breasts 52

Androgyny 56

Helen's Scar 59

Relativizing the Absolute 65

Helen and Old Age 69

Beauty: Subjectivity and Objectivity 74

Beauty and Nostalgia 78

Chapter 3 Abducting Helen 83

Missing Moments 83

Homer, the Iliad 84

Herodotus, the Histories 86

Chaucer and Narrative Gaps 88

Helen and Cressida 93

The Law's Resolution of Women's Rights (1632) 97

Statute Change in 1597 100

The Rape of Lucrece (1594) 102

Helen (of Troy) 104

Rape as Revenge 107

Chapter 4 Blame 109

Accounts 109

Casting Blame: Helen, Paris, and the Gods 110

Sidestepping Blame: Sympathy in the Iliad 113

Competing Narratives: the Odyssey 115

"Twisting Eulogy / And Censure Both Together" 116

Voicing Helen: Euripides 118

Helen Among the Sophists 120

Agency (1) Joseph of Exeter 124

Agency (2) Middle English Troy Books 126

George Peele, The Tale of Troy (1589) 129

Deifying Helen: John Ogle, The Lamentation of Troy (1594) 131

Mimetic Desire, the Scapegoat, and Blasphemy 134

Naming and Shaming 138

Chapter 5 Helen and the Faust Tradition 142

Form and Appearance in the English Faust Book 144

Helen in the English Faust Book 147

Dr Faustus and Language 150

Dr Faustus and Boundaries 153

Goethe (1749-1832) 154

Goethe and Representation 155

Goethe and the Beauty of Language 158

The Face That Launched a Thousand Ships 160

Jo Clifford (1950-) 164

Clifford's Helen and Gender Politics 168

Chapter 6 Parodying Helen 173

Comedy 174

The Novel 185

Caribbean Helen: Derek Walcott, Omeros (1990) 198

Notes 207

References 231

Index 250

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