Frontiers of Pleasure

Frontier of Pleasure, Anastasia-Erasmia Peponi, Oxford University Press

Frontiers of Pleasure calls into question a number of influential modern notions regarding aesthetics by going back to the very beginnings of aesthetic thought in Greece and raising critical issues regarding conceptions of how one responds to the beautiful. Despite a recent rebirth of interest in aesthetics, extensive discussion of this key cluster of topics has been absent.

Anatasia-Erasmia Peponi argues that although the Greek language had no formal term equivalent to the “aesthetic,” the notion was deeply rooted in Greek thought. Her analysis centers on a dominant aspect of beauty–the aural–associated with a highly influential sector of culture that comprised both poetry and instrumental music, the “activity of the Muses,” or mousike.

The main argument relies on a series of close readings of literary and philosophical texts, from Homer and Plato through Kant, Joyce, and Proust. Through detailed attention to such scenes as Odysseus’ encounter with the Sirens and Hermes’ playing of his lyre for his brother Apollo, she demonstrates that the most telling moments in the conceptualization of the aesthetic come in the Greeks’ debates and struggles over intense models of auditory pleasure. Unlike current tendencies to treat poetry as an early, imperfect mode of meditating upon such issues, Peponi claims that Greek poetry and philosophy employed equally complex, albeit different, ways of articulating notions of aesthetic response. Her approach often leads her to partial or total disagreement with earlier interpretations of some of the most well-known Greek texts of the archaic and classical periods. Frontiers of Pleasure thus suggests an alternative mode of understanding aesthetics in its entirety, freed from some modern preconceptions that have become a hindrance within the field.

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Achilles in Love: Intertextual Studies

Achilles in Love: Intertextual Studies, Marco Fantuzzi, Oxford University Press

Achilles in Love: Intertextual Studies traces the escapades of Achilles’ erotic history, whether in same-sex or opposite-sex relationships, and how they were developed and revealed, or elided and concealed, in Greek and Latin literature and visual arts.

The volume investigates how different authors and artists responded to this most controversial aspect of Achilles’ character, in comparison to the fiery personality that was shaped by the Iliad and was often considered ‘canonical’ for his character. Through analyzing Achilles in love from the time of Homer all the way down to the Latin poets of the first century BC and AD, the Ilias Latina, and the authors and iconography of the imperial age, this book makes both novel and productive connections between poetic texts, pictoral images, and literary genres which tried time and time again to capture Achilles’ ever-shifting role within the world of Eros.

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A Short WWII History

A Short WWII History, Norman Stone, Penguin Books

The Second World War is the nightmare that sits at the heart of the modern era – a total refutation of any notion of human progress and a conflict which haunts us seventy years on. This book aims to tell the narrative of the war in as brief a compass as possible, making a sometimes familiar story utterly fresh and arresting.

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The Love-charm of Bombs

The Love-charm of Bombs, Lara Feigel, Bloomsbury.

When the first bombs fell on London in August 1940, the city was transformed overnight into a battlefront. For most Londoners, the sirens, guns, planes and bombs heralded gruelling nights of sleeplessness, fear and loss. But for Graham Greene and some of his contemporaries, this was a bizarrely euphoric time when London became the setting for intense love affairs and surreal beauty. At the height of the Blitz, Greene described the bomb-bursts as holding one ‘like a love-charm’. As the sky whistled and the ground shook, nerves were tested, loyalties examined and infidelities begun. The Love-charm of Bombs is a powerful wartime chronicle told through the eyes of five prominent writers: Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel and Henry Yorke (writing as Henry Green). Volunteering as ambulance drivers, fire-fighters and ARP wardens, these were the successors to the soldier poets of the First World War and their story has never been told. Now, opening with a meticulous evocation of a single night in September 1940, Lara Feigel brilliantly and beautifully interweaves letters, diaries and fiction with official civil defence records to chart the history of a burning world in wartime London and post-war Vienna and Berlin. She reveals the haunting, ecstatic, often wrenching stories that triumphed amid the mess of a war-torn world.

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The Roman Market Economy

The Roman Market Economy, Peter Temin, Princeton

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The quality of life for ordinary Roman citizens at the height of the Roman Empire probably was better than that of any other large group of people living before the Industrial Revolution. “The Roman Market Economy” uses the tools of modern economics to show how trade, markets, and the Pax Romana were critical to ancient Rome’s prosperity.

Peter Temin, one of the world’s foremost economic historians, argues that markets dominated the Roman economy. He traces how the Pax Romana encouraged trade around the Mediterranean, and how Roman law promoted commerce and banking. Temin shows that a reasonably vibrant market for wheat extended throughout the empire, and suggests that the Antonine Plague may have been responsible for turning the stable prices of the early empire into the persistent inflation of the late. He vividly describes how various markets operated in Roman times, from commodities and slaves to the buying and selling of land. Applying modern methods for evaluating economic growth to data culled from historical sources, Temin argues that Roman Italy in the second century was as prosperous as the Dutch Republic in its golden age of the seventeenth century.

“The Roman Market Economy” reveals how economics can help us understand how the Roman Empire could have ruled seventy million people and endured for centuries.

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Theatre Outside Athens: Drama in Greek Sicily and South Italy

Theatre Outside Athens: Drama in Greek Sicily and South Italy, Edited by Kathryn Bosher, Cambridge University Press

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This volume brings together archaeologists, art historians, philologists, literary scholars, political scientists, and historians to articulate the ways in which western Greek theatre was distinct from that of the Greek mainland, and, at the same time, to investigate how the two traditions interacted.

The chapters intersect and build on each other in their pursuit of a number of shared questions and themes: the place of theatre in the cultural life of Sicilian and South Italian “colonial cities”; theatre as a method of cultural self-identification; shared mythological themes in performance texts and theatrical vase-painting; and the reflection and analysis of Sicilian and South Italian theatre in the work of Athenian philosophers and playwrights. Together, the chapters explore central problems in the study of western Greek theatre. By gathering a range of perspectives and methods, this volume offers a wide-ranging examination of this hitherto neglected history.

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Pen and Sword Military Classics

Just a quick blog to say that the Classics Department of our Oxford shop is currently featuring the Pen and Sword Military Classics range. These popular, accessible titles cover every war, battle, and skirmish of ancient times as well as every famous general, warrior, and warlord. Here’s a pick of the bunch:

The Army of Alexander the Great, The Sieges of Alexander the Great, and The Field Campaigns of Alexander the Great, all by Stephen English

The Spartan Army, by J. F. Lazenby

Alcibiades, by P. J. Rhodes

The Attack on Troy, by Rodney Castleden

Hannibal’s Last Battle, by Brian Todd Carey

The Tyrants of Syracuse, by Jeffrey Champion

The Wars of Alexander’s Successors, by Bob Bennett and Mike Roberts

Pyrrhus of Epirus, by Jeffrey Champion

Warlords of Republican Rome, by Nic Fields

Most of the titles in this range are priced at £19.99, and are illustrated. Do come and have a look.

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Medusa’s Gaze – The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese

Medusa’s Gaze – The Extraordinary Journey of the Tazza Farnese, Marina Belozerskaya, OUP, 2013

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The Tazza Farnese is one of the most admired objects from classical antiquity. A libation bowl carved from banded agate, it features Medusa’s head on its outside and, inside, an assembly of Egyptian gods. For more than two millenia, these radiant figures have mesmerized emperors and artists, popes and thieves, merchants and museum goers.

In this, the first book-length account of this renowned masterpiece, Marina Belozerskaya traces its fascinating journey through history. That it has survived at all is a miracle. The Tazza’s origins date back to Ptolemaic Egypt where it likely enhanched the power and prestige of Cleopatra. After her defeat by Emperor Augustus, the bowl began an amazing itinerary along many flashpoints in world history. It likely travelled from Rome to Constantinople. After that city’s sack by crusaders in 1204, it returned west to inspire the classical revival at the court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II at Palermo. The Tazza next graced Tamerlane’s court at Samarqand, before becoming an obsession of Renaissance popes and princes. It witnessed the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the turbulent aftermath of the French Revolution, and the birth of the Italian state.

Throughout its journey, the Tazza aroused the lust of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Mongol rulers, consoled a heartbroken duchess, inspired artists including Botticelli and Raphael, tempted spies and thieves, and drew the ire of a deranged museum guard who nearly destroyed it. More than a biography of the world’s most cherished bowl, Medusa’s Gaze is a vivid and delightful voyage through history.

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Logical Matters, Essays In Ancient Philosophy II

Logical Matters, Essays In Ancient Philosophy II, Jonathan Barnes, OUP

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The second volume of Jonathan Barnes’ papers on ancient philosophy contains twenty-seven pieces under the broad heading of Logic. The volume also includes essays that were originally published in obscure places, and in foreign languages. All of the papers have been retouched, a few of them have been substantially revised, and papers originally published in French have been translated into English.

The first three essays in the volume are of a general nature, being concerned with ancient views on the status of logic and with the distinction between formal and material inferences. The next nine items deal with different aspects of Aristotelian logic: the copula, negation, the categoris, homonymy, and the principal of contradiction. Then come three papers about the connection (or lack of connection) between Aristotelian logic and Stoic logic. Two of the pieces discuss Theophrastus’ theory of ‘hypothetical’ syllogisms. After that, the essays run more or less chronologically: a short notice on the Dialecticians, three essays on aspects of Stoic logic, a pair of papers on ancient theories of meaning, items on adverbs and connectors, on Philoponus and Boethius, and on an anonymous tract written in the autumn of 1007 AD. All in all, there is matter to divert scholars and students of ancient philosophy.

 

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Class in Archaic Greece

class archaic greece

Class in Archaic Greece, Peter W. Rose, Cambridge University Press

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Archaic Greece saw a number of decisive changes, including the emergence of the polis, the foundation of Greek settlements throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea, the organization of pan-Hellenix games and festivals, the rise of tyranny, the invention of literacy, the composition of the Homeric epics and the emegence of lyric poetry, the development of monumental architecture and large-scale sculpture, and the establishment of “democracy”. This book argues that the best way of understanding them is the application of an eclectic Marxist model of class struggle, a struggle not only over control of agricultural land but also over cultural ideals and ideology. A substantial theoretical introduction lays out the underlying assumptions in relation to alternative models. Material and textual remains of the period are examined in depth for clues to their ideological import, while later sources and a wide range of modern scholarship are evaluated for their explanatory power.

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