The Fanatical Classics Page Bookstore

Visit the Classics Page Bookstore each week for my latest recommendations. Please feel free to e-mail me with comments or recommendations of your own. Also, for some recommendations unrelated to Classics, see my Personal Recommendations.

Recommendations for the Week beginning 13 October 1998

Controlling Laughter: Political Humor in the Late Republic , by Anthony Corbeill
Hardcover (November 1996) Princeton Univ Pr

This is an excellent analysis of humorous invective in the late Republic, which basically means Cicero's invective in the later Republic, although there is a useful chapter on the humor of Pompey and Caesar. Brilliant for what it is, this book is (I feel) mistitled. "Political humor" surely cannot be synonymous with invective, can it? Corbeill tips his hat to this objection in the introduction, but beyond his assertion that indeed, you can eliminate most other types of humor from the discussion, there is no real exploration of this question. If he had titled the book something like Humorous Invective in the Late Republic I would have been much happier. But now I'm just nit-picking. I highly recommend this volume --- insightful and highly readable.

Past Weeks' Recommendations

A Cultural History of Humour : From Antiquity to the Present Day, Jan Bremmer (Editor), Herman Roodenburg (Editor)
Hardcover (June 1997) Polity Pr

This collection of essays grew out of an academic conference, and the inclusions make for an oustanding book. Of particular interest to me were the first two chapters on humor in Greece and in Rome, but anyone with an interest in this area will also enjoy later chapters on humor in the Middle Ages, anthropological perspectives on humor, the humor of a Flemish painter (!), and many more. Highly recommended. Click on the book to order a copy.

Prayer from Alexander to Constantine : A Critical Anthology, by Mark Kiley (Editor)
Paperback - 320 pages (August 1997) Routledge

This is a very useful book for anyone interested in religious studies, be you a Classicist interested in Greek and Roman religion or simply a Christian who would like to get a historical picture of how people have prayed, and in particular how they prayed during the time period which birthed your faith. Click on the book to order a copy.

Representations : Images of the World in Ciceronian Oratory, by Ann Vasaly
Paperback Reprint edition (February 1996) Univ California Press

This book by Ann Vasaly is a very important work for the study of Ciceronian rhetoric. For years, the persuasive value of Cicero's speeches has been approached with the philology of the dry and dusty variety. Vasaly undertakes to examine questions not usually asked in earlier investigations. Click on the book to order a copy.

Who Killed Homer? : The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom, by Victor Davis Hanson, John Heath
Hardcover - 288 pages (April 1998) The Free Press

Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath stake out dangerous ground. Basically, they claim that the study of the Classical world is dying and that classicists are to blame. Clearly, if you are a classicist, prepare to be offended. Also prepare to be offended if you are a feminist, post-structuralist, post-modernist, multiculturalist, or a devotee of countless other "ists" and "isms" that the authors attack. That having been said, Hanson and Heath make a strong claim that the Classical world is where most of the things we hold dear originate, and that, despite our justified admiration of other cultures, we really wouldn't want to give up these tenets which began with the Greeks and Romans, the knowledge of which is withering away from neglect. Regardless of whether you end up agreeing with the authors, this is a book which started a firestorm in the States, and is well worth reading. Click on the book to order a copy.
Review of Who Killed Homer in Bryn Mawr Classical Review by Beye
Review of Who Killed Homer in Bryn Mawr Classical Review by Connolly
Hanson & Heath's Response to these two Reviews
Debate about Who Killed Homer? on NPR

Poetic Allusion and Poetic Embrace in Ovid and Virgil, by R. Alden Smith
Hardcover (January 1998) Univ of Michigan Pr

Let me first be very up-front about my biases: Alden Smith is a friend of mine and a former professor, and I read the manuscript of this book and offered comments before it went to press. That does not change the fact, however, that with Poetic Allusion & Poetic Embrace Smith has given us a much-needed corrective to the idea that intertextuality consists of authors "battling it out" and that readership is practically anything you want it to be. Through sensitive readings of selected passages from Ovid and Virgil, and by appropriating the "Ich und Du" of Martin Buber, Smith shows that readership, both of authors reading those who came before them and of the general audience, is a much more complicated process. Click on the book to order a copy.

Achilles in Vietnam : Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, by Jonathan Shay
Paperback (October 1995) Touchstone Books

Jonathan Shay is a psychologist by trade and has spent many years counseling Vietnam veterans. In the course of his counseling, Shay noticed similarities between the experiences of his patients and those of warriors in Homer. He discussed this with classicist Gregory Nagy of Harvard, and with Nagy's encouragement he fleshed out his ideas, resulting in this book. Praised in the popular media and panned by some academics (including Hanson and Heath above), this is a fascinating study. In particular, Shay compares the behavior of "beserkers" from Vietnam with that of Achilles, and attempts to show that story-telling has a large role to play in the healing process. Pop psychology or valuable inter-disciplinary insight? You decide... Click on the book to order a copy.

The Western Way of War : Infantry Battle in Classical Greece, by Victor Davis Hanson
Paperback Reprint edition (November 1990) Oxford Univ Pr (Trade)

An excellent "worm's-eye" study of the experience in battle of the classical Greek hoplite. Davis advances the compelling theory that the origins of all Western warfare can be traced back to classical Greece (cf. also Hanson & Heath Who Killed Homer above). Based on the methodology of Keegan's The Face of Battle but exhaustively researched from classical sources, some relatively unknown. Of interest to general readers as well as those with an interest in military history and the psychology of men in battle. Recommended to me by Murray Woodford. Click on the book to buy a copy.

Latin Literature : A History, by Gian Biagio Conte
Hardcover - 827 pages Revised edition (April 1994) Johns Hopkins Univ Pr

This is an excellent reference work from one of the premier Latinists of our century. It is exhaustive and yet it makes a good read, too. Especially of interest for students, and grad students in particular. Click on the book to order a copy.

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