Antiquity Now: The Classical World in the Contemporary by Thomas E. Jenkins

By Thomas E. Jenkins

Written in a full of life and available type, Antiquity Now opens our gaze to the myriad makes use of and abuses of classical antiquity in modern fiction, movie, comics, drama, tv - or even web boards. With each bankruptcy targeting a unique element of classical reception - together with sexuality, politics, gender and ethnicity - this booklet explores the ideological motivations in the back of modern American allusions to the classical international. finally, this kaleidoscope of receptions - from demands marriage equality to examinations of gang violence to passionate pleas for peace (or struggle) - unearths a 'classical antiquity' that reconfigures itself day-by-day, as modernity explains itself to itself via ever-expanding applied sciences and media. Antiquity Now therefore examines the often-surprising redeployment of the paintings and literature of the traditional global, a geography charged with especial price within the modern mind's eye.

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Such influence remained, however, a one-way street: knowledge of the classical world (particularly its literature) was assumed by both modern artist and modern viewer/reader. In this way, the classics provided a sure basis for the continuing examination of human society and its myriad foibles; ultimately, the classics allowed—if only through modern descendants—a window onto the human condition. 38 Indeed, the most impassioned defense of the classical tradition was penned by none other than Gilbert Highet, the scholar most closely associated with Columbia University’s “Literature Humanities” course, a great books sequence from Homer to Shakespeare and beyond.

Bravmann 1997: 67. 4 Post-WWII receptions include the classically grounded and pathbreaking journal from the One Institute;5 mid-century and contemporary receptions feature any number of “queer” or genderbending productions of classical tragedy, including Richard Schechner’s Dionysus in 69. A specialized mode of reception concerns classics and AIDS, as Greco-Roman texts concerning pestilence and illness are refigured as commentaries on this most contemporary of plagues. Thus the gay and lesbian reception of antiquity continues to inform modern sensibilities concerning the interplay of gender, history, and desire, even as we careen well into the twenty-first century.

As we shall see, gay and lesbian appropriations of antiquity nearly always represent ancient homosexuality as a phenomenon analogous to modern homosexuality; this is in contradistinction to more recent academic discussions, which (with some spectacular exceptions) emphasize the discontinuity of sexual practices from ancient to modern times. For example, the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum cites a letter from the Greek philosopher Epicurus, a passage that, she claims, “always occasions gasps and embarrassed giggles” from undergraduates:6 “The truly pleasant life is not produced by an unbroken succession of drinking bouts and revels; not by the enjoyment of boys and women and fish and other things that a luxurious table presents.

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