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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 ...

Old Flames

Peter Parsons, 10 January 1983

The Latin Sexual Vocabulary 
by J.N. Adams.
Duckworth, 272 pp., £24, September 1982, 9780715616482
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Ovid: The Erotic Poems 
translated by Peter Green.
Penguin, 450 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 14 044360 6
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Women’s Life in Greece and Rome 
by Mary Lefkowitz and Maureen Fant.
Duckworth, 294 pp., £24, September 1982, 0 7156 1434 7
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Heroines and Hysterics 
by Mary Lefkowitz.
Duckworth, 96 pp., £8.95, September 1982, 0 7156 1518 1
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... about the plot of Sappho’s ‘jealousy’ poem, the language, of Io’s transformation in Aeschylus, Cicero’s Pro Caelio in the tradition of invective. The ensemble traces patterns and parallels. Women need sex: ancient doctors and modern therapists alike attribute all their illnesses to frustration. Women must marry: modern fiction follows ancient ...

Crashing the Delphic Party

Tim Whitmarsh: Aesop, 16 June 2011

Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue and the Invention of Greek Prose 
by Leslie Kurke.
Princeton, 495 pp., £20.95, December 2010, 978 0 691 14458 0
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... a little lower down, the historians Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, along with the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and (less congenial to modern taste) those bombastic orators Lysias and Demosthenes. What’s more, as Menippus’ answer to Apollonius shows, judgments of literary quality were always related to judgments about the social ...

Wholly Given Over to Thee

Anne Barton: Literary romance, 2 December 2004

The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare 
by Helen Cooper.
Oxford, 560 pp., £65, June 2004, 0 19 924886 9
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... the Furies, those terrifying Erinyes optimistically renamed ‘the kindly ones’ at the end of Aeschylus’ Oresteia. (John Lyly had also bestowed it on a questing knight in his comedy Endimion a few years before Peele.) Like Shakespeare’s notorious sea-coast of Bohemia, Catita cannot be found on any map, nor can a winged Jackanapes improbably flying ...

Anxious Pleasures

James Wood: Thomas Hardy, 4 January 2007

Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 486 pp., £25, October 2006, 0 670 91512 2
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... Crowd, expresses the thought that ‘what the Greeks only suspected we know well; what their Aeschylus imagined our nursery children feel’ – that is, ‘the defects of natural laws’. In The Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy declares that Michael Henchard has been brought down by ‘the ingenious machinery contrived by the gods for reducing human ...

Pork Chops

John Bayley, 25 April 1991

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Very Private Life 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £18, April 1991, 0 00 217662 9
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... have printed them nor probably have continued to write verse, but would have devoted himself to Aeschylus and Greek negatives and the possible derivation of Attic culture through the Phoenicians from Egypt – activities which he rather touchingly took up again during his last years as a Classics professor in Dublin. All his life Hopkins was haunted by the ...

Burning isn’t the only way to lose a book

Matthew Battles, 13 April 2000

The Library of Alexandria: Centre of Learning in the Ancient World 
edited by Roy MacLeod.
Tauris, 196 pp., £39.50, February 2000, 1 86064 428 7
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... the present day. Commentaries preserve traces of what has been lost, including the satyr-plays of Aeschylus and other dramatists (Euripides’ Cyclops is the only surviving example of this genre), Aristotle’s annotated lists of play performances at Athens and an enormous quantity of lyric poetry. Of course, we cannot know the extent of the loss without ...

Imperial Dope

Alan Hollinghurst, 4 June 1981

Creation 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 510 pp., £8.95, April 1981, 0 394 50015 6
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... in historical record but in art, and he is repeatedly scornful of Greek dramatists, especially Aeschylus, whose death from a dropped tortoise he finds highly comic. The most extreme instance of textual reinterpretation, and the most relevant to the novel, comes in the work of Pigres, a poet who claims to be ‘Homer born again’ and who rewrites the Iliad ...

Site of Sin and Suffering

James Romm: Theban Power, 2 July 2020

Thebes: The Forgotten City of Ancient Greece 
by Paul Cartledge.
Picador, 320 pp., £12.99, May, 978 1 5098 7317 3
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... of the surviving plays by Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus, and one by Aeschylus, Seven against Thebes, trace the tortured history of the clan, for whose sins the city suffered plague, civil war and dictatorship. Through these dramas, Antigone especially, an idea of Thebes as a site of sin and suffering has endured.Cadmus, a ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan, 8 September 2011

Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... where he lay for the next ten hours, alternately dosing himself with morphine and reading Aeschylus. He wrote home on 13 September 1916 that ‘the stench from the dead bodies which lie in heaps around is awful.’ Only a fortnight earlier he had told his mother: ‘do not worry about me. I am very happy; it is a great experience, psychologically so ...

It’s him, Eddie

Gary Indiana: Carrère’s Limonov, 23 October 2014

Limonov: A Novel 
by Emmanuel Carrère, translated by John Lambert.
Allen Lane, 340 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 1 84614 820 0
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... Ceausescus on television (‘they’ve given us, unrehearsed, a scene worthy of the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Journeying together towards eternity, simple and majestic, Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu have joined the immortal lovers of world history’), Carrère tries to soften the effect of a fascist panegyric by suggesting that Limonov had been ...

Apollo’s Ethylene

Peter Green: Delphi, 3 July 2014

Delphi: A History of the Centre of the Ancient World 
by Michael Scott.
Princeton, 422 pp., £19.95, February 2014, 978 0 691 15081 9
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... had no real knowledge of what happened, any more than they did in the matter of Homer. But both Aeschylus and Euripides suggest that an earlier shrine in Delphi belonged, appropriately enough, to Gaia (Earth), and it’s confirmed by the archaeological record, which Scott, again rightly, says is what we should rely on, though he perhaps doesn’t draw all ...

Music Made Visible

Stephen Walsh: Wagner, 24 April 2008

Wagner and the Art of the Theatre 
by Patrick Carnegy.
Yale, 461 pp., £35, September 2006, 0 300 10695 5
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... him. But he was the first to do so under the influence of the ancient history of drama from Aeschylus to Shakespeare, not to mention the more recent history of German idealist philosophy, from Kant to Hegel, Schelling, Feuerbach and – a little later – Schopenhauer. Wagner not only wrote more books than any other major composer, he must certainly ...

The One We’d Like to Meet

Margaret Anne Doody: Myth, 6 July 2000

Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India 
by Wendy Doniger.
Chicago, 376 pp., £43.95, June 1999, 0 226 15640 0
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The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth 
by Wendy Doniger.
Columbia, 212 pp., £11.50, October 1999, 0 231 11171 1
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... the real queen remained safely in hiding.’ Hints of the story of the phantom Helen are given in Aeschylus and Herodotus, and it is told explicitly in Plato’s account of Stesichorus’ recantation. Stesichorus was forced to repent his unjust description of Helen: she never went to Troy, he claims, it was her phantom that was fought over. Paris was a ...

Washed in Milk

Terry Eagleton: Cardinal Newman, 5 August 2010

Newman’s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint 
by John Cornwell.
Continuum, 273 pp., £18.99, May 2010, 978 1 4411 5084 4
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... the undergraduate John Henry Newman was delighting in the inexhaustible metaphorical riches of Aeschylus at Oxford, the students of Maynooth were being fed a philistine diet of papist apologetics and garbled chunks of scholasticism. It was well nigh impossible, given this dismal context, for the 19th-century English Catholic church to produce a major ...

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