Literature and the Godsby Roberto Calasso
From the internationally acclaimed author of The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony and Ka, a stunning summation of his lifelong study of the role of the gods in the human imagination. Based on the prestigious Weidenfeld Lectures Roberto Calasso gave at Oxford in May 2000, Literature and the Gods traces the return of pagan divinities to Western literature from their first reappearance at the beginning of the modern era to their place in the literature of our own time.
Calasso sets out to uncover the divine— godly or otherwise—in specific texts, and finds it in what he calls "absolute literature." With its roots in early Vedic verse, absolute literature reached the apex of its expression during the period beginning with the German Romantics in 1798 and ending with Mallarmé's death in 1898. But Calasso also discovers the divine in the work of Valéry, Auden, Yeats, Montale, Borges, and Nabokov, and he reveals how these writers, in their own very particular ways, were articulating the same unnameable thing. Finally, he delineates the timeless, ever-mysterious laws that surround the creative act itself.
With Literature and the Gods, Roberto Calasso profoundly deepens our understanding of our literary tradition. It is, itself, a literary masterpiece.
“Calasso can take your breath away.” –The New Yorker
“[A] riveting work of cultural history. . . . Learned, eloquent, and artful.” –The Weekly Standard
“Luminescent. . . . Stimulating. . . . Seduce[s] a reader in search of ideas that entertain as well as edify.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
- Knopf Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1 AMER ED
- Product dimensions:
- 5.31(w) x 7.85(h) x 0.89(d)
Read an Excerpt
Brilliant, inspired, and gloriously erudite, Literature and the Gods is the culmination of Roberto Calasso’s lifelong study of the gods in the human imagination. By uncovering the divine whisper that lies behind the best poetry and prose from across the centuries, Calasso gives us a renewed sense of the mystery and enchantment of great literature.
From the banishment of the classical divinities during the Age of Reason to their emancipation by the Romantics and their place in the literature of our own time, the history of the gods can also be read as a ciphered and splendid history of literary inspiration. Rewriting that story, Calasso carves out a sacred space for literature where the presence of the gods is discernible. His inquiry into the nature of “absolute literature” transports us to the realms of Dionysus and Orpheus, Baudelaire and Mallarmé, and prompts a lucid and impassioned defense of poetic form, even when apparently severed from any social function. Lyrical and assured, Literature and the Gods is an intensely engaging work of literary affirmation that deserves to be read alongside the masterpieces it celebrates.
Meet the Author
Roberto Calasso lives in Milan, Italy.
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