In Search of the Classic: Reconsidering the Greco-Roman Tradition, Homer to Valéry and Beyond

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The "classical," Steven Shankman argues, should not be confused with a particular historical period of Western antiquity, although it may owe its original articulation to the literary and philosophical explorations of ancient Greek authors. Shankman's book searches for and attempts to formulate the shape of the continuing presence—as embodied in particular literary works mainly from Western antiquity and the neoclassical and modern periods—of what the author calls a "classical" ...

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Overview

The "classical," Steven Shankman argues, should not be confused with a particular historical period of Western antiquity, although it may owe its original articulation to the literary and philosophical explorations of ancient Greek authors. Shankman's book searches for and attempts to formulate the shape of the continuing presence—as embodied in particular literary works mainly from Western antiquity and the neoclassical and modern periods—of what the author calls a "classical" understanding of literature.

For Shankman, literature, defined from a classical perspective, is a coherent, compelling, and rationally defensible representation that resists being reduced either to the mere recording of material reality or to the bare exemplification of an abstract philosophical precept. He derives his definition largely from his reading of Greek literature from Homer through Plato, from the history of literary criticism, and from the Greco-Roman tradition in English, American, and French literature. Shankman reveals unsuspected yet convincing connections among authors of such widely disparate times and places. His idea of the "classic" that authorizes these connections is presented as normative, thus making possible the evaluation of literary works and, in turn, forthright discussion of what constitutes the "literary" as distinct from other kinds of discourse. Shankman's study runs counter to a strong tendency of contemporary criticism that argues precisely against any distinct category of the "literary." He offers a series of interpretations that cumulatively advance theoretical discussion by challenging scholars to rethink the critical paradigms of postmodernism.

At the center of the book is a discussion of the quintessentially classic Valéry poem Le Cimetière marin and the classic qualities it shares with Pindar's third Pythian ode, from which Valéry derives the epigraph for his poem.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271013237
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 12/14/1994
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Shankman is Professor of English and Classics at the University of Oregon and author of Pope's "Iliad": Homer in the Age of Passion (1983).

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Plato and Postmodernism 3
2 Rationalism Ancient and Modern 33
3 Animal Rationis Capax: Gulliver's Travels and the Classical Experience of Reason 49
4 Led by the Light of the Maeonian Star: Aristotle on Tragedy and Some Passages in the Odyssey 63
5 The Pindaric Tradition and the Quest for Pure Poetry 79
6 Poetry and the In-Between: Valery's Le Cimetiere marin and Pindar's Third Pythian Ode 125
7 "Art with Truth ally'd": Pope's Epistle to a Lady as Pindaric Encomium 161
8 Bonne Musique ou Bonnes Moeurs: Le Neveu de Rameau, the Good, and the Beautiful 177
9 The Pastoral Tradition and the Inheritance of Alexandrian Preciosity 187
10 The Ambivalence of the Aeneid and the Ecumenic Age 217
11 Philosophy as Doctrine, Rhetoric as Panache? The Metamorphoses of Apuleius 247
12 Genre, Didacticism, and the Ethics of Fiction in Moll Flanders 263
13 Dryden's Of Dramatic Poesy and the Ancient Antagonism Between Elevation and Verisimilitude 279
14 Plato's "Attack" on Poetry Reconsidered 295
Conclusion, in Which Nothing Is Definitively Concluded 315
Appendix: The Text of Pindar's Pythian 3 321
Index 327
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