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Slants

Alastair Fowler, 9 November 1989

Melodious Guile: Fictive Pattern in Poetic Language 
by John Hollander.
Yale, 262 pp., £20, January 1989, 0 300 04293 0
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Second World and Green World: Studies in Renaissance Fiction-Making 
by Harry Berger.
California, 519 pp., $54, November 1988, 0 520 05826 7
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... easily from Job to Jakobson, Hillel and Horace to Dickens and Dickinson, Plato to Wittgenstein, Aeschylus to Ashbery. And he returns to the essay’s origin by adopting georgic digression as his structural principle. Philosophers’ questions lead to questions answered by questions; self-questionings lead on to closure by question, and that, in turn, to the ...

Defence of poetry

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 3 July 1980

Enemies of Poetry 
by W.B. Stanford.
Routledge, 181 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 7100 0460 5
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The Idea of a Theatre: the Greek Experience 
by M.I. Finley.
British Museum, 16 pp., £95, February 1980, 0 7141 1267 4
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... of the plays’; he is speaking of Greek tragedies and comedies. He points out that, though Aeschylus was neither a social thinker nor a political philosopher, he was a great tragic poet, and so a kind of thinker, though not a thinker of the same type. Coming from one who has always stood for a tough-minded and unsentimental approach towards ...

‘Look at me. I on TV’

Daniel Soar: Percival Everett, 10 July 2003

Erasure 
by Percival Everett.
Faber, 294 pp., £14.99, March 2003, 0 571 21588 2
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... efforts was rewarded with the comment: ‘one is lost to understand what this reworking of Aeschylus’ The Persians has to do with the African American experience’ (the infelicity of the phrase ‘one is lost to understand’ is another injection of unnecessary cruelty unfairly administered). When Monk’s sister, a doctor who runs a loss-making ...

Australia’s Nineties

Clive James, 15 July 1982

Christopher Brennan: A Critical Biography 
by Axel Clark.
Melbourne, 358 pp., £20, May 1980, 0 522 84182 1
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... on achieving it at any cost and against all the odds. In 1894, his paper ‘On the Manuscripts of Aeschylus’ appeared in the Journal of Philology alongside articles by Housman and Nettleship. It should have been the beginning of a useful second career as a philologist, but in the long run the only thing that came out of it was a mention, with qualified ...

Women in Power

Mary Beard: From Medusa to Merkel, 16 March 2017

... they had messed up.)Go back to one of the very earliest Greek dramas to survive, the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, first performed in 458 bc, and you’ll find that its antiheroine, Clytemnestra, horribly encapsulates that ideology. In the play, she becomes the effective ruler of her city while her husband is away fighting the Trojan War; and in the process she ...

Slavery and Revenge

John Kerrigan, 22 October 2020

... added to the stock of revenge plots that had dealt with questions of justice and liberty since Aeschylus and Euripides through Seneca to Shakespeare’s tragedy about the former slave Othello. Certainly the earliest texts that look extensively at the slave trade – Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko (1688) and Thomas Southerne’s stage adaptation of it ...

Its Own Dark Styx

Marina Warner, 20 March 1997

The Nature of Blood 
by Caryl Phillips.
Faber, 224 pp., £15.99, February 1997, 0 571 19073 1
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... when it throws its voice, can dissolve hatreds by deepening understanding: The Persians, in which Aeschylus dramatises the terrible grief of the enemy Xerxes’s mother, represents an early instance of this potential. In pursuit of this possibility, Phillips contrasts in The Nature of Blood two stories taken from the past and plaits them into his Holocaust ...

The Mother of the Muses

Tony Harrison, 5 January 1989

... at a standstill under snow. Outside there’s not much light and not a sound. Those lines from Aeschylus! How do they go? It’s almost half-way through Prometheus Bound. I think they’re coming back. I’m concentrating ...μουσομητορ εργανην ... Damn! I forget, but, remembering your dad, I’m celebrating being in love, not too ...

Players, please

Jonathan Bate, 6 December 1984

The Oxford Book of War Poetry 
edited by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 358 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 19 214125 2
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Secret Destinations 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 69 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 333 38268 4
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Fast Forward 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211967 2
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Dark Glasses 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 71 pp., £3.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2875 5
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... When rockets point like pines in tundra Towards the profaned moon? he asks in ‘Cyprus, Aeschylus, Inanition’. The title poem considers the transformation wrought on St John’s vision of apocalypse ‘when the fire has crept into a governed switch’. A powerful line – but those that follow it suffer from a metaphor that mixes its ...

Glaucus and Ione

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 17 April 1980

The Last Days of Pompeii 
by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton.
Sidgwick, 522 pp., £6.95, December 1979, 0 283 98587 9
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... philosophy; another such library might possess Archilochus, or Ennius, or lost tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Many of the papyrus rolls discovered long ago are carbonised, so that they have not been opened; scholars are working at a new technique for dealing with them. Late in 1833, Gell guided round the sites the rich, well-born novelist and ...

Flip-flopping

Emily Wilson: Can heroes hesitate and still be heroic?, 17 November 2005

Hesitant Heroes: Private Inhibitions, Cultural Crisis 
by Theodore Ziolkowski.
Cornell, 163 pp., £17.50, March 2004, 0 8014 4203 6
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... classical Greek and Roman heroes hesitate no less than modern ones. His earliest example is Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers, the second play in the Oresteia. Orestes returns home to take revenge on those who killed his father: his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus. Orestes kills Aegisthus without scruple, but as he lifts his sword to kill his ...

Offered to the Gods

Frank Kermode: Sacrifice, 5 June 2008

Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera 
by Derek Hughes.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £45, October 2007, 978 0 521 86733 7
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... with the case endings making distinctions of sense, a device also employed in the Agamemnon of Aeschylus but here, as Hughes demonstrates, used to a quite different purpose. In the 18th century dramatists and composers preferred happy endings to stories of human sacrifice. Even the story of Jephtha’s daughter could be made less severe by emphasising the ...

Cave’s Plato

A.D. Nuttall, 7 July 1988

In Defence of Rhetoric 
by Brian Vickers.
Oxford, 508 pp., £40, February 1988, 0 19 812837 1
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Recognitions: A Study in Poetics 
by Terence Cave.
Oxford, 530 pp., £40, March 1988, 0 19 815849 1
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... of Paulina, discovered lines on the beloved face. Here surely the Euripidean displacement of Aeschylus is reversed. When Cave writes about the Middle Ages he has nothing to say about the recognition by Dante of the burned features of Brunetto Latini or (still more majestic) Ben son, ben son Beatrice. It is true that Cave is too good a critic not to be ...

Hellenic Tours

Jonathan Barnes, 1 August 1985

The Cambridge History of Classical Literature. Vol. I: Greek Literature 
edited by P.E. Easterling and B.M.W. Knox.
Cambridge, 936 pp., £47.50, May 1985, 0 521 21042 9
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A History of Greek Literature 
by Peter Levi.
Viking, 511 pp., £14.95, February 1985, 0 670 80100 3
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... Although he will find it ‘a positive advantage not to have read most modern discussions’ of Aeschylus’s plays, he will eagerly seek out Richard Reizenstein’s analysis of Greek novels in his brilliant Hellenistische Wundererzählung. Such readers may once, I suppose, have manned the farthest outposts of the Empire, but nowadays they are surely rare ...

Labouring

Blake Morrison, 1 April 1982

Continuous 
by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, £3.95, November 1982, 0 86036 159 4
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, 120 pp., £3.50, November 1981, 0 86036 178 0
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US Martial 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 29 0
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A Kumquat for John Keats 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 31 2
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... There are grounds for thinking Tony Harrison the first genuine working-class poet England has produced this century. Of course, poets from D.H. Lawrence to Craig Raine can boast a proletarian background, but their poetry isn’t usually interested in doing so – not at its most characteristic and not to an extent that would make the term ‘working-class poet’ a useful one ...

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