Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity: Art, Opera, Fiction, and the Proclamation of Modernity (Martin Classical Lectures)
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How did the Victorians engage with the ancient world? Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity is a brilliant exploration of how the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome influenced Victorian culture. Through Victorian art, opera, and novels, Simon Goldhill examines how sexuality and desire, the politics of culture, and the role of religion in society were considered and debated through the Victorian obsession with antiquity.
Looking at Victorian art, Goldhill demonstrates how desire and sexuality, particularly anxieties about male desire, were represented and communicated through classical imagery. Probing into operas of the period, Goldhill addresses ideas of citizenship, nationalism, and cultural politics. And through fiction--specifically nineteenth-century novels about the Roman Empire--he discusses religion and the fierce battles over the church as Christianity began to lose dominance over the progressive stance of Victorian science and investigation. Rediscovering some great forgotten works and reframing some more familiar ones, the book offers extraordinary insights into how the Victorian sense of antiquity and our sense of the Victorians came into being.
With a wide range of examples and stories, Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity demonstrates how interest in the classical past shaped nineteenth-century self-expression, giving antiquity a unique place in Victorian culture.
engagement, and cultural power. For me, reception Studies is most productive and interesting when we move away from the great man communing in his study with the great work of the past, toward the cultural signiﬁcance of the representation of the past for a here and now. I am now in a position to underline the force of my subtitle, “. . . and the Proclamation of Modernity.” In each of my chapters, there is a speciﬁc focus on how the artworks in question come to stand for a self-aware statement
REVOLUTION 19 over the same ground again. He barely mentions art, opera, or literature in what remains a magisterial study. Richard Jenkyns’s The Victorians and Ancient Greece and his later Dignity and Decadence, well ahead of the game in their choice of subject and interdisciplinarity, certainly cover enough examples from art, architecture, poetry, and ﬁction, but because of the sheer range of material have had to sacriﬁce a certain depth of argument. Our questions sometimes overlap, but more
often are aimed in quite different directions. Several books have also been hugely inﬂuential on speciﬁc areas—and again I have been happy to learn liberally from them. Risking invidiousness for exemplarity, one could name Yopie Prins’s Victorian Sappho, Linda Dowling’s Hellenism and Homosexuality, Norman Vance’s The Victorians and Ancient Rome, and, on education and science, Christopher Stray’s Classics Transformed, and for the micro-history of a subject, Suzanne Marchand’s Down from Olympus:
robes, underlining the alternate fates of the visitors of Circe. One foot in particular pokes out from under her dress, and rests above a small Gorgon’s head, which adds to the threat of dangerous transformation through female power—and through the power of the gaze. In the middle of the foreground, however, amid the purple grapes and dark vine-leaves (obvious markers of luxurious pleasure), there is a toad. A toad is not mentioned in Homer’s story of Circe’s animals, but is familiarly associated
killed Gluck?” I am intending to explore the cultural history that turned a revolutionary icon at the center of a polemical storm into a dull or, at best, curious embodiment of a recognized but uninspiring classicism of a bygone age. Listening to Gluck in the eighteenth century in Paris produced a storm of tears, recriminations, anguished passions, and a turmoil of social and intellectual disagreements: I want to explore why that seems so bafﬂingly strange to modern audiences. Revolutionary