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Subjects, selves, and survivors.

The Subject of Time

Classicists can legitimately argue that their right to be stakeholders in the new economies of the academy is based on the philosophical idea, first fully developed in Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (Sein und Zeit [1927]), that a key constitutive element of subjectivity is temporality. With the slightest degree of modification, the notion of temporality in subjectivity intensely illuminates the reasons why ancient Greek and Roman texts and artifacts have proved so culturally long-lived and versatile. In his interpretation of Heidegger, Albert Shalom (1993) emphasizes that subjectivity in the known universe only arose after a long time when there was no subjectivity at all; in each one of us, subjectivity only arose at some unknown point after our father's spermatozoon fertilized our mother's egg. Temporality, which currently remains entirely beyond our control either as individuals or as a species, thus constitutes the very source of our subjectivity (Shalom 1993, 189). There are, of course, one or two other philosophical concepts that can certainly stake nearly equivalent claims to importance in the makeup of the self, especially spatiality and corporeality. There has also been a great deal of recent literature produced by psychologists on what they call the "self." (1) They often assume that the dominant explanatory metaphor for the sense of a continuous self, which unites our diverse constituent "selves," is no longer the linear story or plotline, but something more like a computer that processes information, a central processing unit (CPU) (Knowles and Sibicky 1990). Yet even the scholars who have produced these studies would undoubtedly agree that the CPU needs loci by which to sort that information, and that the dominant loci by which we, as subjects, experience the world are always primarily temporal. From this point of view, the ancient world from which we trace our origins, and against the backdrop of which we constitute our identity, has always represented--and will probably always represent--a key locus by which we experience temporality.

It is in black American thought that the arguments from temporality have been developed more than in any other arena, a reaction to the appalling fact that slaves were until so very recently not only denied a collective history, but even individual dates of birth. Here there is much to be learned from the remarkable black American Frederick Douglass, born into slavery in Maryland during the second decade of the nineteenth century, who became obsessed with discovering his date of birth. This need continued to nag at him throughout his life; he called it "a serious trouble" even as a free man in his sixties (Gates 1987, 98-102). Henry Louis Gates has written that
  We mark a human being's existence by his or her birth and death dates,
  engraved in granite on every tombstone. Our idea of the self ... is as
  inextricably interwoven with our ideas of time as it is with uses of
  language. In antebellum America, it was the deprivation of time in the
  life of the slave that first signaled his or her status as a piece of
  property. Slavery's time was delineated by memory and memory alone.
  (Gates 1987, 100)


To a classicist, therefore, it is distressing to find Phillis Wheatley, a late eighteenth-century Boston slave, and the first African ever to publish a book of poems in English, express her reflections on memory, race, and the lacunose nature of her own cultural inheritance in a poem that is classically infused. In On Recollection (an abstract she names by abbreviating Mnemosyne to Mneme), Wheatley muses on the way that this female personification of Recollection enables her new "vent'rous Afric" poet to range "in due order" the "acts of long departed years," and to paint "the actions done / By ev'ry tribe beneath the rolling sun" (Wheatley 2001, 34-5). Wheatley could have had little access to any data about the long departed acts of her own ancestors beneath the sun that shone on the continent from which she came. But she was, in fact, fortunate in the (relative) richness of the information about her personal beginnings: she did at least know that she was born somewhere in West Africa at some time near 1753.

The notion of linear temporality turns Greek and Roman authors into the stemmatic ancestors of the contemporary subject, since the classical past is so often imaginatively constituted as the moment at which the consciousness represented by our own (and our species') "light bulb" was initially switched on. Most moral philosophers tend to the view that the notion of the subject is, in all disciplines, undergoing a massive project of reconstitution, a process in which the contribution of classics, of Western culture's foundational texts, will become virtually inevitable. It is difficult to foresee anybody, at least as yet, abandoning the notorious stemma that Foucault constructed in Technologies of the Self (1988) where he traced the constitution of the self-through-writing, via Stoic self-examination, directly to Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations, followed by Augustine's Confessions. (2) For whenever there has been a revolution in the idea of subjectivity, the texts of ancient Greece and Rome have historically come into play, either as constituting the genealogical origins of the contingently constituted sense of subjectivity, or (to put it slightly differently) as tracing the etiology of Western humanity's textuality. For Rene Descartes in his Meditations, it was the reformulation of the master egos Paul, Augustine, and subsequently Thomas Aquinas. (3) For Heidegger, it was Karl Reinhardt's 1933 reading of Sophocles and certain aspects of early Greek philosophy (Halliburton 1988, 265), especially its pagan basis, so different from the Judeo-Christian tradition that Heidegger was concerned to problematize. (4) However, for Hannah Arendt's (1978) study of the will in Willing, Epictetus became the first Greek to treat will in a way that did offer any serious potential for real assimilation by the monotheistic Judeo-Christian tradition. (5) This principle can even work negatively. For one prominent (white) campaigner against slavery in the nineteenth century, the loss of the contem porary records of black resistance and cultural achievements, the destruction of the "record of the true relation which blacks now bear to this Republic," would represent a profounder grief to future scholars even than the loss of the great library of Alexandria. (6) For Gates, moreover, in an interesting shift from authority as derived from stemmatic descent to authority as derived from evolutionary parallel, an argument of this type emerged to refute the hoary old criticism of black literature that had argued that it must be inferior precisely because it originated in oral genres and media. As Gates (1987, 37) points out, this criticism was rendered obsolete and entirely redundant by nothing other than the Homeric researches of Milman Parry and Albert Lord.

Contemporary psychologists agree that it is the interpersonal situations undergone by an individual that generate the sense of self, but that these are significantly supplemented and informed by cultural materials that allow one vicariously to experience roles, identities, and emotions generated by personal interactions. Such cultural materials include all kinds of discourse, texts, drama, art, and now films and television (Smith-Lovin 2002, 131; Hall 2006, 20-6). Ancient texts and artifacts that are still studied and enjoyed today, as well as contemporary novels, films, television programs, and dramas set in antiquity, will therefore be potential sources of the sense of self; (7) on the argument that temporality is a core component of subjectivity, they will offer, specifically, sources connected with the originating locus. A survey of the personal accounts of the books that informed or altered the subjectivity of the proletarian heroes studied by Jonathan Rose in The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2001) indicates the striking recurrence of certain key ancient authors, read in translation, often because they were the recommended reading matter on lists compiled by workplace reading groups, Mutual Improvement Societies, and Worker's Educational Associations. At the top of such lists there long stood the figures of Homer (often read in Pope's translation), and Marcus Aurelius. Will Crooks (1852-1921), future Labour MP, grew up in extreme poverty in East London, but bought a two-penny secondhand translation of the Iliad, and was dazzled: "What a revelation it was to me!... I was transported from the East End to an enchanted land." (8)

Two poems by late eighteenth-century women, one on each side of the Atlantic, provide illuminating examples. One is Anne Yearsley's poem Addressed to Ignorance, Occasioned by a Gentleman's Desiring the Author Never to Assume a Knowledge of the Ancients, in which the humble milkmaid-turned poet, from Bristol, reveals the extent to which her own self-definition has been shaped by her reading of canonical authors. But her relationship to them is formulated in a paradoxical and complicated way She both reveres them and yet radically questions their right to receive the reverence long bestowed upon them by elite, and male, society She painstakingly shows off her knowledge of ancient figures (Achilles, Ulysses, Socrates, Diogenes, Hesiod, and Vergil), while insouciantly arguing that if Pythagoras's theory of reincarnation is to be believed, these august figures may all be engaged in lowly occupations now, while she may have been, in previous incarnations, a much more high-status individual. (9)

Yearsley campaigned against the slave trade on which her native Bristol's fortune was founded, and it was a slave, Wheatley, who wrote the other poem to be discussed here, about a decade earlier. In To Maecenas (1773) this black poet, whose writing and publishing activity was wholly unprecedented, tried on a series of identities she had encountered in her reading of classical authors, in a transparent quest to identify or formulate a poetic persona adequate to self-description. She first adopts the voice of Horace, a freedman's son, in order to address her patron (ironically, her "Maecenas" was almost certainly another woman, Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon and a prominent Methodist patron of black Britons); she then asserts her inability to rise to Homeric or Vergilian heights, but assumes the persona of Patroclus begging to borrow Achilles' armor in the Iliad (16.21-45) (Wheatley 2001, 9-10). As a black woman, she is as unskilled but as well intentioned in relation to the history of white male poets as Patroclus was as a warrior in relation to Achilles. In this image her perceived artistic inferiority and her actual low social status seem to be combined, in a manner not dissimilar to her self-abnegating characterization as "the last and meanest of the rhyming train" in her well-crafted and moving Ovidian poem, Niobe in Distress (Wheatley 2001, 53-9). Finally, and unsurprisingly, she identifies a true ancestor in the African dramatic poet Terence, but asks the Muses why she can find no other: "Why this partial grace / To one alone of Afric's sable race?" (10) By half a century later, however, American blacks were beginning to frame some of the arguments from Mediterranean history and literature that have recently been attributed, rather, to a late twentieth-century white Jewish intellectual, Martin Bernal, in Black Athena (vol. 1, 1987). For, a century and a half earlier, in 1837, the New York newspaper Colored American included an editorial vehemently arguing that blacks could aspire to the achievements of the ancient Egyptians and Carthaginians, to the literary skill demonstrated in Hanno's Periplous, and to the brilliance of Terence's drama. (11)

With hindsight it seems obvious that Levi-Strauss and the other dominantly white male abolitionists of the idea of the individual subject, who operated in the 1950s-1980s (see below), could afford the luxury of abolishing it because it was already theirs. To the classical scholars among them, the attractive ancient Greek and Latin texts were perhaps more transparently susceptible than Hanno or Terence to anthropological structuralism: Odyssean colonization fantasies, Hesiodic myth, or Herodotean ethnography (see Vernant 1970; Vidal-Naquet 1981; Hartog 1980). Another subject-free way of analyzing the classics was offered by the sort of deconstructive approach that abolished the possibility of semantic stability, of ever locating a single meaning in any ancient text (e.g., Goldhill's [1984] deconstruction of the Oresteia). Another was to treat, for example, tragic theater as an ideological corpus with virtually no relationship to the individual dramatists who produced it; this approach denied the relevance of the author's personal views to the dialectical expression of the beliefs that underpinned their society (Hall 1989). More subtle methodologies might cope with the traditional literature of the subject (e.g., Roman love elegy) by effectively removing the spotlight from the subject and reading the poetry in a way that dissolved its object into a textual construction (see e.g., Veyne 1983; Wyke 1987). Yet for the post diasporic poststructuralist world, if that is indeed what we now inhabit, (12) the most generative ancient Greek or Latin texts are those that help form almost any subjectivities other than the white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied Christian (or arguably Judeo-Christian) subject of established Western philosophy and political theory. The subject attempting to define itself may use the Odyssey of Derek Walcott's diasporic black Omeros, the Agamemnon of the endlessly recuperated Clytemnestra of twentieth-century feminism (on which see the recent study of Komar [2003]), or the Philoctetes acted by Ron Vawter, a prominent campaigner for gay rights, as he was dying of AIDS in 1994 (Hall 2004a, 11-2). Equally, it might rediscover obscure ancient authors such as Julia Balbilla or Eudocia Augusta (Balmer 1996).

Readers and Others

In order for these alternative subjectivities to emerge, some previously ignored historical subjects swimming in the textual stream that flows into ours needed, first, to be excavated. This procedure might be described as self-conscious and constructively critical atavism. Fiona Macintosh and I have tried to practice this type of cultural atavism in our protracted research into the meanings found in Greek tragedy by British scholars, translators, and dramatists since the Restoration (Hall and Macintosh 2005). An outstanding cultural ancestor of all scholars of ancient Greek literature is Gilbert Murray, whose historically specific reading of Trojan Women at the dawn of the twentieth century, in accordance with his own personal opposition towards the British role in the Boer war, has at least implicitly informed every subsequent discussion and performance of that tragedy At a time when he was inveighing against British imperialism in southern Africa, Murray subjectively reacted to the ancient play as an outcry against Athenian imperialism. This interpretation has not only affected but actually been adopted by the majority of the play's readers (Hall and Macintosh 2005, ch. 17).

An even more telling example to be discovered in the history of classical scholarship must be Basil Gildersleeve's highly individual reaction to Pindar. Gildersleeve was intensely loyal to a nostalgic vision of the Old South, a vision forged before and during his service in the Confederate cavalry during the American Civil War, an experience that marked him indelibly. Yet most classical scholars have known him solely as an exceptionally important figure in the history of research into Pindar. There is not a late nineteenth- or twentieth-century commentary or scholarly article on the epinician genre that is not at some level still informed by Gildersleeve's brilliant and lucid commentary on the Olympian and Pythian odes (1885). Yet it is inevitable that our understanding of Gildersleeve's own subjective responses to this Theban encomiast of the aristocracy must be immeasurably deepened by excavating the inside of the Confederate scholar's head (see Schein 1986; Hopkins 1986; and DuBois 2003, 13-8). He had personally identified himself with Pindar, and above all with the anodyne, beautiful, aristocratic, traditional, idealized, elegant world conjured in Pindaric epinicia. That idealized ancient world, existing entirely in the elite imagination, exhibits a capacity for erasing all the pain entailed by its underlying mode of production, namely slavery (P. W. Rose 1992, 141-84). This is painfully similar to the artificial prettiness and fundamental denial of the truth demonstrated throughout the genre of the Confederate Romance, where the nineteenth-century southern plantation is a place of conjured delicate sentiment, magnolia blossoms, and moonbeams, a set of images that attempts to obscure or eradicate the reality of systemic slave exploitation, rape, and torture (Gates 1987, 50).

Gildersleeve certainly saw himself as protecting his compatriots from constitutional slavery to the North, rather than fighting for the personal right to be a slave owner. Yet he would have insisted on the right of the men who fought for the Confederacy to determine for themselves whether they should own slaves, who were either black Africans brought to America like Wheatley in the previous century, or their descendants. Wheatley, as we have seen, struggled to identify an authentic voice in which to articulate her own experience. Classical subjects--conceived as white, free, and male--proved of only marginal help in the constitution of her literary self: black, unfree, and female. We as classicists, who proportionately have a greater chance of being female than ever before, have also always had an ambivalent relationship with literary subjectivity. Feminist thinkers have long since seen that the notion of a unitary transcendental subjectivity must collapse in the face of the existence of two sexes (see, e.g., Johnson 1980). They have also argued that it is precisely because the female subject has been excluded from the institutionalized legal and political domains that she can be crucial to contemporary discussion of subjectivity (see, e.g., Miller 1988). The "objective" voice of the traditional scholar, from this viewpoint, can be seen as a sort of expressive costume that female scholars can wear, but of which they and their readers must be aware if they are to participate in scholarly discourse: as a kind of compulsory intellectual transvestism, it needs to be acknowledged (Rabinowitz 2001, 191). The scientific and speciously objective subject traditionally articulated in formal classical scholarship has thus been challenged; scholars such as Judith Hallett (1997) and Nancy Rabinowitz (2001) have advocated the use of a more personal, intimate voice, which raises to consciousness rather than effaces what personal experiences and attitudes might be bringing to bear on scholars' interpretations and uses of classical artworks.

The Canadian classics scholar and poet Anne Carson opened her Martin Classical Lectures, Economy of the Unlost (Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan) (1999b), by repudiating scholarly "objectivity" while, at the same time, apparently criticizing the intrusiveness of her own subjectivity: "There is too much self in my writing ... my training and trainers opposed subjectivity, I have struggled since the beginning to drive my thought out into the landscape of science and fact where other people converse logically and exchange judgements--but I go blind out there" (1999b, vii). But another significant factor in classicists' particular relationship with the topic of subjectivity has been much less obviously ideological, and has more to do with contingently available types of evidence. It is the ambivalence that results from the usual lack of external biographical material, a problem treated with delicate humor in the Czech poet Miroslav Holub's poem Homer, in which the ancient epic poet strolls the seas between his seven alleged birthplaces, "unseen, unburied, unexca-vated, casting no biographical shadow" (trans. Ewald Osers in Holub 1990). Yet it was precisely with such biographical information that, at least in the 1980s, our colleagues in departments of later literatures, many of whom had declared dead the very idea of authorship, were so happy to dispense. This tendency did, in fact, penetrate classics. When I was an impressionable postgraduate student in the mid-1980s, I remember vividly the cynical scoffing of some theoretical sophisticate at the idea that it just might be relevant to Aeschylus's emotional response to the Persian military that his brother had died as a result of a terrible wound inflicted at Marathon. Yet it is quite impossible to conceive of a situation, even at the very acme of the first-wave poststructuralist assault on the subject (on which see below), in which classicists would not have jumped on the discovery of, say, the private diary of Sappho or Praxiteles, the correspondence between Ovid and Julia, or evidence that Aeschylus's father had died tragically in the bath.

What has made this issue seem particularly pressing has been the case of the attempt to excavate the lives and experiences of the women who lived in Mediterranean antiquity. At exactly the same time as the French poststructuralists and their followers were announcing the death of the subject, female classicists, especially in the United States, were lamenting the necessary and depressing limitations on gynocritical readings of the Greek and Roman classics. One way out of this impasse lay in Don Fowler's insistence that in the case of ancient Greek and Latin texts the resistant writing practice celebrated by Cixous can also become an approach to reading; feminist readers and their sympathizers do have access to an alternative hermeneutic, which need not require simply endorsing male authorial control over women's voices in male texts (Fowler 1997, 10-1). Such alternative readings have been explored, for example, in the work that Fowler's student Efie Spentzou (2002) has conducted on Ovid's Heroides.

Despite the near impossibility of biographical criticism in relation to ancient authors, there remains, however, much under the heading "subjectivity" to make classicists feel a special sense of proprietorial smugness, even authority. The tradition of literature in ancient Greek or Latin seems not only to have invented a certain type of authorial presence and personality, but thereafter to have supplied a large number of the strong literary "I" voices that still resonate in the Western head: Sappho, Archilochus, Nossis, Cicero, Catullus, Horace, Ovid, and so on. The ancient Greeks, moreover, certainly invented the self-conscious theorizing of the I voice, above all in Plato's assault on the speciousness of oratio recta in the immeasurably influential treatment of mimesis in his Republic, followed by Aristotle's perceptive treatment of how assuming another persona can allow an author to express controversial views, as Archilochus (so Aristotle says) used the ethos of Charon the carpenter in order to denounce wealth and tyranny. (13) There have also been virtually invisible routes by which ancient texts have come to be involved in the constitution of more recent selfhood. An exceptionally important example is the implication of Marcus Aurelius's practical Roman Stoicism in the history of the North American self-help manual, above all through its impact on Dale Carnegie, author of the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936). Carnegie explicitly recommends Aurelius's Meditations (actually entitled Ta eis heauton or To Himself), as a source of self-help, for example in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1948). (14) The ultimate philosophy of Carnegie, encapsulated in his famous saying that if life gives you a lemon, make lemonade, is nothing but a twentieth-century equivalent of the famous Stoic doctrine that if life has made you a donkey, at least you still have the option of pulling the cart with dignity. Carnegie was a self-made American hero, brought up dirt-poor on a Missouri farm, and his writings have had a huge impact on millions of Americans; they are the foundation text not only of the American self-help manual and industry, but of moralizing daytime television shows, especially Oprah Winfrey's. I suspect it was through Carnegie that Aurelius was discovered by another boy who dragged himself up from poverty, William Clinton, who claims to reread the emperor's thoughts every year or two. (15)

The key subjectivities involved in Greek and Roman reception studies, therefore, include those of the authors who have adapted ancient texts and those of the readers and scholars who have studied and enjoyed them. The issue of temporality, the closely related notion of the etiology of the Western subject, and an atavistic interest in the subjectivity of previous "receivers" of classics are all part of the story. But there are of course other significant intermediating subjects, especially translators, for none of us now (nor for many centuries) has been brought up to speak Latin or ancient Greek as our mother tongue. Classical culture is always experienced in translation. The subjectivity of the translator has been inserted into the hermeneutic process for all of us, not just those of us (including myself) who, even after learning the languages, habitually use cribs: this is because ancient Greek and Latin are so "incontrovertibly dead," as Louis MacNeice so memorably put it in Autumn Journey (1979; originally published 1938, 125). There is always a translator, another language, and what Derrida calls the essentially new work created by translation; (16) Greek and Latin classics offer unusually and universally empty ideological vessels into which translators and their readers pour their own subjectivities. It was Plato who began the Western theorization of the I voice in literature, so it is perhaps appropriate that it is in connection with a Platonic scholar that the history of the Western theorization of the act of translation is usually thought to begin. Certainly the crucial interdependence of the act of translation and the act of interpretation was brilliantly expressed by Friedrich Schleiermacher in the introduction to the first volume of his translation of Plato, first published in 1817 (1855, 5-56).

The identity and virtual presence of the translator can have a powerful mediating impact on the way we read ancient poetry, as I recently experienced reading some of Catullus's more obscene, misogynist, and phalli-cally obsessed poems in the company of their most recent female translator, a middle-aged Englishwoman of conventional appearance and East Sussex domicile, Josephine Balmer. The unexpected effect of inserting a female subjectivity between Catullus and the reader is to take the seediness out of a world dominated by notions of sexual degradation. Indeed, I have rarely before felt the importance of the translator as companion subject in the process of reading to such a degree (Hall 2004b), except, perhaps, when frustrated by the misrepresentation of ancient feminine grammatical gender by prefeminist male scholars. (17) The "transvestite" translator, adaptor, or appropriator of the ancient subject is more often these days a modern woman dressing herself in the words of an ancient man (even if the new reassembled poem by Sappho comparing her own ageing process to that which eventually withered the male Tithonus's beauty was first published in Martin West's [2005] supplemented text and translation). But transvestite translators and adaptors have indeed become one of the most striking aspects of contemporary reception. An excellent example of creative transvestism here is Marie Darrieussecq's Pig Tales (1997; French edition, Truismes [1996]), subtitled in English A Novel of Lust and Transformation. The female first-person narrator is a sex-industry worker who turns into a sow. She has a generalized historical relationship, as the subject of metamorphosis, with Ovid's sexploited heroines, but a more specific one with Lucius of Apuleius's Metamorphoses, a foundation text in the history of the Western novel (on which topic Darrieussecq used to lecture at the University of Lille). The relationship between Apuleius's ass-hero and Darrieussecq's pig-heroine has excited less critical attention than her more oblique references to individuals in Kafka and Orwell, but it is revealed in several features. These include the application of potions, the treatment of Christianity as a bizarre mystery cult, the vision of political dystopia, the physical sufferings undergone by the narrator, her experience of bestial sex from the animal's perspective, and even the Latin yelled at her by the religious fanatic in the lunatic asylum, "vade retro, vade retro" (Darrieussecq 1997, 85). What is interesting here is the female writer (an avowed feminist) making her point about male treatment of women's bodies by inscribing her own subjectivity on one of the paramount foundation texts (the most important of which will probably always be the Odyssey) of subjectivity in fiction.

Recent female translators and adaptors of ancient poetry have been particularly fascinated with the subject positions of the dying, especially the speeches or thoughts expressed in ancient literature by individuals about to die at the hands of more powerful individuals. Josephine Balmer's Fresh Meat: A Perversion of Iliad 22 (2004b, 41-2) rewrites the climax of the Iliad entirely from the dying Hector's viewpoint, taking her cue from his final speeches (22.337-43, 297-305, 250-9). Carson's (1999a) Autobiography of Red can be seen as an extended response to the fragment of Stesichorus's lost epic which describes a fight between Geryon and the mighty Heracles. (18) In the passage that follows, Geryon droops his neck in death at the hands of Heracles, and is likened to a poppy that spoils its beauty by suddenly shedding its petals. (19) When transformed by Carson in her poetic novel, this fragment provides the climax--an intense moment of orgasm in the mile-high club, as Heracles begins to masturbate the ecstatic red monster in a plane high over the Andes:
  He felt Herakles' hand move on his thigh and Geryon's
  head went back like a poppy in a breeze
  as Herakles' mouth came down on his
  and blackness sank through him. Herakles'
  hand was on his zipper. Geryon gave himself up
  to pleasure.... (Carson 1999a, 118-9)


Geryon's right to subjectivity triumphs over his millennia-long objectification as the creature who existed simply to be slain in Heracles' tenth labor. Geryon displaces Heracles from the center of his myth, and himself takes center stage, substituting for his own death an erotic triumph over the lover who once (in Carson's story) callously abandoned him. (20)

If Carson has shifted the experience of Geryon from the periphery to the center of the ancient myth of Heracles, the conceptual journey undertaken by several other important recent adaptors of antiquity has been equally centrifugal, or perhaps centripetal: authorial subjects who feel themselves somehow excluded from the center (whether by class, gender, race, or sexuality) have been making central what was once peripheral to ancient narratives. This tendency is, of course, not entirely new. Recent poetry engaging with Greek and Roman texts shows a widespread tendency to select subjectivities not quite central to ancient myths--as if asking a character played by the tritagonist in a drama, rather than by the protagonist, to develop his or her own perspective. One example is the focus on the nameless slave who saved the baby Oedipus in Gjertrud Schnackenberg's cycle The Throne of Labdacus (2001), a poem that, incidentally, explores at length the issue of the subjective experience of temporality. An extreme and telling example is Balmer's Philomela, where the words articulated are those of an actually mute ancient subject, on the topic of her sister and the death of her sister's child. This poem was written as Balmer was trying to come to terms with the death of her beloved little niece (Balmer 2004b, 22). Similarly, Fiona Macintosh (2004) has argued that the displacement of the plays about Oedipus from the center of the stage of the 1980s and 1990s, in favor of those about Clytemnestra and Medea, directly reflects the challenge Melanie Klein's mother-centered psychoanalytical model has (at least since the 1960s) posed to her mentor Freud's obsession with the phallic father.

Although the post-Renaissance reception of the Homeric epics has been an almost exclusively male affair, George Steiner's (1996) collection Homer in English includes rather grudgingly, as if to compensate for the startling paucity of female authors in the collection, Jemima Makepiece Sturt's fascinating 1875 poem Penelope's Musings. This reflects in the voice of Penelope (who is aware that Odysseus has been unfaithful) that she knows he will leave her again, concluding, "I know I'll be alone at death" (Steiner 1996, 187). But Sturt's brilliantly original response to the Odyssey, which was never actually published, is dismissed in Steiner's perfunctory preface as an "amateurish lyric" (Steiner 1996, 187). Notwithstanding the important contributions of H.D. and other pioneering female writers and poets, it took until the late twentieth century for Sturt's approach to be fully appreciated and developed. (21) In their excellent study of two recent poem cycles by women based on the Odyssey, Sheila Murnaghan and Deborah Roberts (2002) show how both poets, Linda Pastan and Louise Gluck, use Penelope as their access point to the ancient epic, thus dovetailing with contemporary classical Homeric scholarship, which has come close to displacing Odysseus as the central interest of the poem.

A similar tendency is discernible in prose fiction, the medium that has been most intimately associated with subjectivity and its theorization since as least as early as Georg Lukacs's The Theory of the Novel (1920; originally published 1914). There is a noticeable recent vogue for novels that are in dialogue with Greek tragic (usually Euripidean) texts and share one striking tendency: they use strongly defined narrators or subjects textualized in free indirect discourse who are selected from characters originally marginal--or at least not central--to the ancient play (see Hall, Forthcoming b). Thus, in Haruki Murakami's Japanese bestseller Norwegian Wood (1987; English translation 2000), which engages extensively with Euripides' Electra, the narrator is the I voice of the Beatles' song Norwegian Wood ("I once had a girl," etc.), who has intense love relationships with not one but two Electra figures. He is a sort of Pylades--an involved but fundamentally marginal observer. In Barry Unsworth's The Songs of the Kings (2002), whose ancient undertexts are many, but to which the most important is Iphigenia in Aulis, the dominant subject of the first half is the seer Calchas, and of the second Sisipyla, Iphigenia's favorite slave. It is by no means accidental that both these individuals confide to the reader that they have other, authentic, non-Greek names--Kalunas and Amandralettes, respectively--which have remained known almost exclusively to themselves. The same sort of principle often applies to recent historical fiction set in Greek and Roman antiquity: in Steven Pressfield's Thermopylae epic, Gates of Fire (1998), the narrator is not Leonidas nor Xerxes nor any famous person of equivalent status, but Xeones, an invented figure. He is the Acarnanian attendant of the Spartiate warrior Dienekes, and thus a man of low status in Sparta but, unlike the helots, at least notionally free. (22)

Other writers have even been challenging the conventional, Hegelian opposition of subject and object, which virtually defined consciousness as the incisive, masterful, knowing subject's experience of the passive, known object. Of enormous significance here is Robert Burns Stepto's study of black narrative, From Behind the Veil (1979). From studying the biographical accounts of nineteenth-century slaves, and the ways that they were paternalistically framed by white emancipationists, Stepto develops a critique of the whole notion of narrative control, a critique in which objects become subjects and subjects interact with other subjects. In classical reception, an important example is Elizabeth Cook's Achilles (2001), which experiments with the free indirect discourse of a whole series of figures involved in Achilles' myth, for example in her bravura account of the violent sexual encounter between Peleus and Thetis which produced Achilles in the first place; this sequence alternates, with appropriate violence, between their two perspectives (2001, 13-9). In Christa Wolf's Medea (1996), as if in homage to the dramatic form of the canonical text standing at the head of her stemma, the novelist uses an ambitious plan in which the subjectivity is passed like a football between Medea, Jason, Glauce, and three socially inferior narrators--a Colchian former pupil of Medea, and two of Creon's Corinthian astronomers. In William Golding's The Double Tongue, published posthumously in 1995, a central undertext is Euripides' Ion, and yet the narrator (this time in unmediated first-person narrative voice) is Arieka, a priestess of Apollo at Delphi, somehow displaced from her marginal role in the ancient play to become the rape victim in Creusa's place. Carson insists that her Autobiography of Red is A Novel in Verse (its subtitle). This signals the importance of its treatment of subjectivity (traditionally a novelistic property), and indeed this emerges repeatedly in explicit discussions of the difference between subjects and objects in art and photography, and in frequent references to Heidegger (see Hall, Forthcoming b).

Classics in Pieces

Carson's Geryon has survived his marginality in Stesichorus's ancient narrative, his rejection by Heracles, his unusual skin color, his bodily idiosyncrasies, and his homosexuality. He has also, more literally, physically survived the fragmentation of his Stesichorean papyrus. In the wake of the great nineteenth- and twentieth-century papyrus discoveries, many have been fascinated with the tenuousness of the threads that brought ancient texts to us, the single most significant example here of course being Tony Harrison's The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus (1990), in which the satyrs sprang through the ancient paper on which Sophocles' Ichneutae had lain hidden in an Egyptian rubbish dump for two millennia. (23) Trackers, however, a play about class struggle in the political and the aesthetic realms, was not notable for its interest in the individual subject. In her fascinating introduction to her collection of ancient women poets in translation, Balmer (1996, 9) draws attention to the link between female writing as survival of the subject, and the material survival of women's poetry from ancient papyri and the medieval tradition. Indeed, fragmentariness and fragmentation ought to have played a much bigger role than it seems to have done in contemporary subjectivity's relationship to classics; the relevant material mostly relates to Sappho and the even more exiguous fragments of other women poets, especially Corinna and Erinna. It is in response to authors such as these that we find Diane Rayor (1990, 17) observing that fragments can offer intriguing possibilities, echoing broken conversations, half-finished sentences, or trailing voices. Balmer has indeed responded creatively to the way that the papyrus of Erinna frays, is torn, at just the point where the text's reading is "tears" (druptei); this is reflected in both the colometry and printed form of Balmer's version, which trails across her pages (1996, 20, 59-60).

In cultural studies, the fragment has become a matter of enormous interest and a key trope in theorization of the postmodern. (24) Fragmentation is also a vital key to the current understanding of the notion of the self in the discipline of social psychology. The postmodern images of subjectivity used by social psychologists entail metaphors portraying it as "inscribed upon the surface of the body, as spatialised, decentred, multiple, nomadic, created in episodic recognition-seeking practices of self-display in particular times and places" (Nikolas Rose 1996, 169). The most dominant images in this discipline have been influenced by Bakhtin's notion of the dialogic imagination. According to this view, the sense of self can only exist in dialogue, that is, in relation to some audience: people who are present or imagined, specific or generalized, actual or fantasized. The self is different depending entirely on which members of this audience are being addressed. The self is plural and relational.

Bakhtin's polyphonic self has, admittedly, begun to prove fruitful in the recent appreciation of a few ancient authors; one instance is supplied by interpretation of the poems of Catullus, many of which "depend upon a polyphonic self, intersected by the voices and truths of others, a self that is created in the interpersonal space where consciousness meets consciousness" (Batstone 2000, 117). Carson, at least in Men in the Off Hours (2000), not only uses whole poems by Catullus, in linguistically marked "transvestite" manner, but such arcane and truly fragmentary sources as papyrus scraps of Alcman. But Carson perhaps constitutes the exception that proves the rule. Contemporary literary subjectivities that are using classical intermediaries definitely buck the "fragmentation" trend (if it is indeed the trend that some cultural critics are insisting). For the reconstituted selves that have dominated this essay--temporal, critically atavistic, transvestite, centrifugal--have actually displayed striking, indeed often defiant integrity. Many come into being not in order to emphasize the fragmentariness of the contemporary subject through a fragmentary or epigrammatic, haiku-like mode of expression, but in order to assemble, reconstitute, indeed glue the fragments back again into identifiably substantial texts. This is undoubtedly the case with Autobiography of Red, and indeed with several recent theater works using ancient fragments, including Colin Teevan's Alcmaeon in Corinth (2004). (25)

Yet the survival and reconstitution of such fragmentary heroes as Carson's Geryon or Teevan's Alcmaeon not only render them symbolic spokespersons for every effaced subject in the Western tradition. Their presence perhaps also reminds us that the very topic of the Reading University conference that gave rise to this collection of essays, the topic of subjectivity--at the very least, as defined as literary subjectivity--only just survived by the skin of its teeth the lethal assault inflicted upon it by the linguistic turn in the academy of the 1960s. The very survival--or rebirth, or renaissance, or resurrection--of the subject as a concept followed immediately upon a single, momentous discovery, which turns the argument inevitably back to the Holocaust (where we shall have reason to return): the posthumous public revelation that Paul de Man, chief advocate of the detachment of texts from their writers, had between 1940 and 1942 published several articles expressing anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi views in the collaborationist Belgian newspaper Le Soir. The public's attention was first drawn to this in an article published in the New York Times. The revelation alerted everyone to the morality of detaching writers from what they wrote, at a time when many critical theorists, not just in continental Europe but increasingly in the Anglo-Saxon academies of the United Kingdom and the United States, could justifiably claim to have dispensed altogether with the very idea of authorship (see Burke 1992, 1-2). De Man had always refused to accept that writers' own lives were relevant to the interpretation of their works. But in his later, deconstructive work he denied that writing could have any stable subject. For de Man, the biographical subject who produced the text was eliminated: "The author disappeared in the textual machine" (Burke 1992, 2).

French-language antiauthorialism culminated, during the late 1960s, in the poststructuralism of Barthes, Foucault, and Derrida, who had soaked up, only to discard, the French existentialist obsession with the authorial subject. This very notion came to seem untenable after the advent in anthropology of Levi-Straussian structural linguistics, above all with La Pensee sauvage (Levi-Strauss 1962). As Sean Burke has put it in his brilliant defense of subjectivity:
  This 'Copernican revolution' set in motion by the foregrounding of
  linguistic structures threw down a direct challenge to the central and
  founding role of consciousness.... In what was to become the 'slogan
  of the decade' for the France of the 1960s, Levi-Strauss could thus
  declare: 'the goal of the human sciences is not to constitute man, but
  to dissolve him.' (1992, 13)


It was not only in this intellectual context that the author was declared dead. The poststructuralist project killed off the subject in all the disciplines where it had previously provided the center: as the author of literature, the patient in psychoanalysis, the transcendental consciousness of philosophy, the civic subject of political theory, and so on. Roland Barthes concisely expressed the intellectual crisis of the times when he declared that language had become "the destroyer of all subject" (1977, 8), and that the goal of literary work was "to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text" (1970, 4). In fiction the arch-apostle was Alaine Robbe-Grillet in Jalousie (1957), with its absence of any I voice, its creation of a vacuum at the center of the text that the reader is forced to occupy, and its obsessive objectification of insentient items perceived visually. In film it was the enigmas of the plotless, virtuosic camera work of Last Year in Marienbad (1961), directed by Alain Resnais from a screenplay also by Robbe-Grillet. Meaning was to be created by the reader, and certainly not by the author. In a parallel assault on the idea of the subject of art, in the 1960s it became the group rather than the soloist or single artist that was emphasized in the public arts. (26)

This particular era of intellectual assaults on the subject made fewer waves in classics and its reception than in some areas of culture. Yet there were a few exceptions, such as Fellini's film Satyricon (1969), which tried hard to abolish the subject. One novel that engaged very extensively with fifth- and fourth-century Greece, above all with Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle, was Joseph Heller's Picture This (1989). Here the engagement is conducted to a considerable extent through an oblique narrator, through whom are inscribed the thoughts of the Aristotle portrayed by Rembrandt in a famous painting of 1653 as contemplating the bust of Homer. Throughout much of the novel Aristotle becomes a clear, sardonic observer guiding the reader's reactions. But finally the novel, which has explored at length the Platonic critique of artistic mimesis, destroys its own carefully construed philosopher subject (Aristotle) by pointing out that this linguistic construct is as unreal, as nonexisting, as the Aristotle painted by Rembrandt, or the sculpture of Homer in the painting (Heller 1989, 350-1). It is questionable whether such an obsession with the linguistic basis of literary subjectivity would be so attractive to publishers today, just fifteen years later, for the Western subject is in the process of experimental and exciting reconstruction after near annihilation. Indeed, it could be argued that the subject has not actually "survived" at all, but has needed to be so radically reformulated as to bear little resemblance to the Cartesian certain I or the transcendental and clearly defined Husserlian subject. That form of subjectivity has undoubtedly been killed off, but the role of remaking the subject--indeed, some argue, of remaking the subject of philosophy itself--has passed to those whose subjectivities have been historically marginalized from mainstream discourse (Bordo and Moussa 1993, 112).

Burke (1992) argues that the author will always and inevitably elude any attempt to be controlled by theory; this is because the author, far from representing Cartesian certainty, "operates as a principle of uncertainty in the text, like the Heisenbergian scientist whose presence invariably disrupts the scientificity of the observation" (1992, 172). Burke is referring to Werner Heisenberg, the controversial inventor of quantum mechanics, who discovered the Uncertainty Principle. As I understand it, the Uncertainty Principle means that it is never possible to determine accurately both the position and the momentum of a particle. The better you know the position, the more you disrupt the momentum, and vice versa. The subject of an experiment or investigation inevitably changes something about the object, and to an uncontrollable degree.

This metaphorical elucidation of the inevitable role of the subject in literature is strongly reminiscent of the remarkable moment in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, when the author prefaces his most definitively scientific, Hippocratic passage (2.49-51), which analyzes the symptoms of the Athenian plague entirely in the third person, with a general description of the onset of the disease at Athens, and the unelaborated statement "I had the disease myself and saw others suffering from it" (2.48). The scientific description includes an account of the very great degree of agony that the plague inflicted, the small chance of survival it offered, along with the information that it caused lasting damage to extremities, even causing permanent blindness. Throughout this passage we are wondering exactly what happened to Thucydides himself, what was the precise effect of the plague on the physical body of the author we are reading, who must certainly have believed that he was likely to die. This is indeed an instance of the Heisenbergian principle at play in the author's relation to his text. Yet arguably even more fascinating is Joel Fineman's response to this passage. Fineman was a fine scholar of literature in English, famous for his work on "the subjectivity effect" in Shakespeare's sonnets. He died of a longstanding cancer in 1989. But while dying he had written some of his best work on subjectivity, partly as a result of paying great attention to Thucydides' experience of mortal illness (Fineman 1991, 73 and esp. 80 note 28).

Surviving the Fragment

The physical survival of the ancient texts, the reassembly from fragments of ancient subjects, modern identification with ancient survivors: these are only a few of the resonances of the term survival for classical reception studies today. It is impossible to discuss the trope of survival without reference to one writer, who is less conspicuous for her place in the roll call of classical reception than in the twentieth-century repositioning of the female subject in Western literature: Tillie Olsen. This American activist and mother was author of one of the most famous texts beginning with the first-person singular of all time, her short story "I stand here ironing" (Olsen 1980a, 11). And it was Olsen who observed in Silences (a seminal lament for the lost--or at least elusive--element of female subjectivity in the literary tradition), "We who write are survivors" (Olsen 1980b, 39). In David Malouf's delicate novel narrated by Ovid, An Imaginary Life (1978), the depressed poet, victim of prosecution by Augustus, is surviving (just) in his Tomis exile. He asks the reader a series of direct questions about his presence in posterity: "Is Latin still known to you?... Have you heard my name? Ovid? Am I still known?... Have I survived?' (Malouf 1978, 18-9). A perception of being a survivor--of damage scarcely accommodated, or threat to continuing existence hardly outlived--here slides almost imperceptibly into the idea of survival as simply managing to sustain communication from one millennium to another. And the fusion of these two meanings of the term survival is one of the defining characteristics of the millennial subject reacting to the Greek and Roman cultural canon.

The preparation of the volume Dionysus since 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium (Hall et al. 2004) entailed thinking about the reasons why Greek tragedy seems to have chimed so in tune with the psychological concerns of the late twentieth century. Besides the more obvious factors of its potential for directors concerned with the sex war, political conflict, and ritual theater, it occurred to us rather later in the day that most Greek tragic heroes do not die at the end of the plays: they are what we now call survivors. In the judgmental, Christian world of renaissance tragedy, most perpetrators (and indeed victims) of murder, rape, incest, and so on die before the end of their plays. But in Greek tragedy the bereaved women of Troy, the blinded, polluted Oedipus, the filicidal Agave and Heracles, and the disgraced and lonely Creon all stagger from the stage at the end of their dramas, leaving their audiences wondering how they can possibly cope with their psychological baggage. The introduction to Dionysus since 69 suggested briefly that this is perhaps the most important of all ways in which Greek tragedy has resonated with the obsessions of an age that has itself only just survived the manmade horrors of the twentieth century. Oedipus, Hecuba, Medea, and Heracles are grown-up heroes for a modern age; rejecting suicide, they stay alive and must try to accommodate their guilt, their shame, their bereavement, and their trauma (Hall 2004a, 45-6). When it comes to fiction deriving from Greek tragedy, the notion of survival has taken on darkest hues. In Wolf's Medea the exculpated heroine is allowed physically to survive the murder of her children at the hands of the Corinthians, but has little else to celebrate; the novel shows how her enemies' control of the production and circulation of information meant that they could set her up as a childkiller for all posterity. In Unsworth's The Songs of the Kings, the terrible story of Iphigenia, sent to her death by a weak and ambitious father, is upstaged by the story of Amandralettes, her slave, who in a last-minute twist survives the end of the novel. She was supposed to save her mistress by being sacrificed in her place, but ends up allowing herself to be persuaded out of this altruistic act, and escaping into an uncertain but guilt-laden future (Hall, Forthcoming a).

To survive originally meant simply to outlive someone else, and was the term used in wills and the laws of inheritance. It then came to designate individuals who had escaped alive from accidents or natural catastrophes. It was only at some point in the mid-twentieth century that the term survivor began to be applied to those who had suffered painful experiences or committed painful acts, and had managed not to die or commit suicide in the process. The noun survivor came to be applied, in an ontological sense, to anybody who had committed or suffered anything involving trauma, and by extension to the ontological status of virtually everyone. To paraphrase Shelley, in the third millennium "we are all Survivors." We are survivors of alcoholism (our own or other people's), survivors of parental abuse, survivors of disease or violence. (27) The extent to which the concept has been informing all our subjectivities is clear from the way it is used in late twentieth-century poetry to title poems even about ostensibly minor traumas: in Marie Ponsot's poem Survival, the term alludes to enduring pregnancy and chatting about Sappho while watching one's husband flirt with another woman (Ponsot 2002, 72).

Besides the descendants of slaves and the survivors of the Holocaust, a third group of key survivors for our era, at least in the West, has consisted of Vietnam veterans. In the cinema the impact of the anarchy and violence of the Vietnam War on the American soldiers who managed to survive it, however damaged they were physically or psychologically, has been acutely observed in films such as Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978), Hal Ashby's Coming Home (1978), and Ted Kotcheff's First Blood (1982) (Riley 2004, 138). The strand that connects such cultural heroes and antiheroes not only to the moral heroism of the Greek tragic survivor, but also to ancient discourse on war atrocity, has been tellingly documented in Larry Tritle's From Melos to My Lai: War and Survival (2000). Fascinatingly, most reviewers have argued that Tritle's subjectivity, massively informed by his own experience as a volunteer (not conscripted) soldier in Vietnam, has been detrimental to his scholarship. (28) Goldhill, for example, in a review published in International Journal of the Classical Tradition (2002/3), complained about the "blatant appropriation" of ancient texts to Tritle's subjective agenda; it seems to me, however, that blatant appropriation is far less dangerous intellectually than what is, in the world of scholarship at least, its ubiquitous latent equivalent (132). More general praise has been encountered by Jonathan Shay's two remarkable studies (1994, 2002) of the psychological experiences of American soldiers, and their mirroring in the Homeric experiences of Achilles' berserk rampaging and the violence and paranoia surrounding Odysseus's homecoming. Shay had not served in Vietnam, but his readings of Homeric epic are profoundly conditioned by his experiences as a psychiatrist in Boston treating traumatized veterans. Personal experience really does matter. The most insightful undergraduate essay I have ever read on the rhetorical protocols of the Iliad was by a trainee marine. Bernard Knox, the most perceptive and influential of all twentieth-century writers on Sophoclean protagonists and their heroic tempers, discovered his profound understanding of Sophocles' Ajax when serving as a trained killer. (29) He was a paratrooper in World War II, a member therefore of an elite and highly trained special fighting force. He told me in September 1995 that he met his own particular Ajax half a century before, not in a camp or on a battlefield, but in a London pub standoff concerning the order of precedence in which different types of soldier should be served: paratroopers always felt that they had the highest status, as the men who took the greatest risks, and that they should therefore be awarded the greatest privileges. This was very shortly before both Knox and his Ajax were dropped out of the sky into France.

Some scholars who have been considering our era's obsession with the idea of survival have suggested that the important point is not that we are all actually survivors, but that we are all diagnostically posttraumatic. In Trauma and Survival in Contemporary Fiction (2002), Laurie Vickroy suggests that the major collective trauma of the Vietnam War psychologically affected the discourses of Western society to a far greater extent than previous wars, because in the wake of the forces of personal liberation unleashed during the 1960s, its veterans were able to vocalize their trauma in ways that had been impossible for previous war-damaged generations. She also explores the way that transference of traumatic responses operates across generations, since traumatized parents have been unable to prevent their treatment of their children becoming affected by their own depression, emotional constriction, survivor guilt, and isolation (Vickroy 2002, 17, 19). One of Vickroy's central texts, interestingly, is Toni Morrison's Beloved, inspired by the story of the mid-nineteenth-century slave Margaret Garner, but informed by the myth of another, quite different, childkilling mother--Euripides' Medea.

Kirby Farrell (1998) goes even further in Post-Traumatic Culture: Injury and Interpretation in the Nineties, where she argues that trauma is not only a clinical syndrome; in contemporary culture it is "a trope something like the Renaissance figure of the world as a stage: a strategic fiction that a complex, stressful society is using to account for a world that seems threateningly out of control" (2). Our obsession with the traumas reported and depicted in news, films, television, and fiction actually elicits, suggests Farrell, revised views of the world that can become the basis for communality. Solidarity can and historically often has emerged from the process of scapegoating other groups--female, black, Jewish, gay--but this alternative is thankfully no longer (at least in public discourse) legitimate. It can, therefore, be argued that the traumas we devour in newspapers and entertainment, however peaceful our own personal lives may be, constitute a collective fantasy that functions as "an organizing or focusing tool" for contemporary society; its members are certainly having to produce new mindsets as they adjust to the stream of new forms of electronic representation and modes of self-consciousness and self-expression (Farrell 1998, 19). A slightly different argument for which the recent movie Gladiator could be adduced as evidence sees our (or at least North American) society as suffering from near universal pre-traumatic anxiety about impending global anarchy, an anxiety in which the precedent of the barbarians who sacked Rome can in itself, by merely being present to the consciousness, "have a real traumatic impact" (Farrell 1998, 25).

Yet it was the Holocaust more than any other single phenomenon that put the seal on our new meaning of the term survivor, as exemplified by innumerable personal testimonies, such as Jack Eisner's The Survivor of the Holocaust (1980), and Moshe and Elie Garbarz's Un Survivant (1983). (30) The question of Jewish suicide in the face or wake of unbearable trauma, and whether the burden of the particular memory of the Holocaust can ever be accommodated, are issues discussed at some length by Hannah Arendt in "We Refugees" (1978); and even here the etiology of the articulated self is traceable back to a man usually termed as a classical author. For when Jean-Francois Lyotard came to discuss Arendt's work on the Holocaust in "Le Survivant" (1988), he drew attention to one of the foundation narratives for Jewish suicide and for the combination of guilt and relief in the subject of survival: Josephus's account of what happened to the last Jews alive (including himself) in the caverns of Jotapata, when besieged by Nero's troops in 67 C.E. (Lyotard 1993, 155). They discussed whether they had the right to commit suicide: Josephus--the leader, the traitor, and the survivor--proposed that each should kill the other in turn. He came out last in the drawing of lots, negotiated his fate with the Romans, and wrote The Jewish War. (31) Those who write are indeed survivors.

The idea of survival has been resonant for those suffering other twentieth-century collective and political traumas and those writing poetry and drama about them, (32) as well as for individuals living with more personal afflictions. (33) And many poems about survival do indeed use ancient myth or literature. The experience-scarred psyche of the Homeric Odysseus certainly underlies the retrospective review of the unpleasant jobs and sexual encounters in Sterling A. Brown's African American dialect poem Odyssey of Big Boy (Brown 1980, 20-1) as much as Judith Kazantzis's description of the returned father at the fireside in Aside: Telemachos: "Huddled in his coat, / with his blue furred eyes / poking at the shrinking embers / year by year" (Kazantzis 1999, 64). And the guilt incurred by Odysseus in order to survive and arrive at that fireside is emphasized by Michael Longley in The Butchers, a shocking retelling of Odyssey 22 that emphasizes the brutality and totality of the Ithacan massacre, opening with the chilling line, "When he made sure that there were no survivors ..." (34) Another harrowing example is the account of the experience of a rape survivor in Persephone below, or What Keeps Her There by Jennifer Bates (1998, 33-4), while her Explanations: Eurydice to Orpheus is a subversion of the Ovidian heroine's amatory epistle. Eurydice takes responsibility for turning Orpheus's eyes away and sending him back to the living world, explaining that this way she has at least managed to claim Hell as her own space (Bates 1998, 10-1). An underground room of her own.

The Posthuman Subject

There is a growing perception that the form taken by our subjectivity, like our technologies and society, is undergoing a process of drastic and indeed constantly accelerating renewal. It could be argued that this awareness is indicated even by the very fact of organizing a conference on subjectivity, as Barbara Goff and Maria Wyke did in 2004 at Reading: we are interested in subjectivity because we feel aware of it as an issue, and we are aware of it as an issue because it is changing so fast. Indeed, one of the reasons why the classical Greeks may offer such an attractive parallel at the moment, according to Armand D'Angour, is not only that they were involved in a period of intense novelty and creativity, but that they were aware of it. They "might reasonably lay claim to having discovered innovation" since they wrote about innovation, and in Aristophanic comedy even produced the earliest known term for it, kainotomia. (35) Accelerated innovation leads psychologists today into thinking about the unexpected and extraordinary consequences for the establishment of identity produced by technology of the Internet and the new virtual community it has invented (Kashima and Foddy 2002, 199). It is very much to be hoped that this is the reason for the current interest in subjectivity, rather than the other possibility that has been suggested, namely that the very emphasis on self and identity as interesting topics may be a reflection of Euro-American individualism with less than edifying resonances in the contemporary political climate, when radical anthropologists and social psychologists are stressing the importance of examining less Western concepts such as relatedness (Smith 2002, 235-6).

Near the beginning of this essay it was observed in passing that one of the loci of the subject which have a claim nearly equivalent in importance to temporality is the locus of corporeality. Two of the texts that subsequently entered this discussion have involved female authors using the subjectivity of beings without strictly human corporeality. Darrieussecq's narrator is left at the end of her novel, shifting between her pig and her human body; Carson's winged Geryon was never somatically human in the first place. A third example is constituted by Christine Brooke-Rose's notorious postmodern experiment in fiction, Amalgamemnon (1984). Written entirely in future and conditional tenses, Amalgamemnon erases reality completely. But it is, as far as it is safe to infer, the ruminations of a female professor of classics in a time when the humanities have become irrelevant and her own subjectivity has been completely destabilized by the increasing technologization of the processes by which experience is recorded. The novel draws extensively on the discourses of computer science, but fragments of the woman's former identity and consciousness drift in and out; besides several allusions to Platonic and Herodotean material, there are signs of an older and importunate male suitor, perhaps the Amalgamemnon of the title. Early on in the novel, all the future tenses and conditionals are focused on an imminent apocalypse:
  Soon the economic system will crumble, and political economists will
  fly in from all over the world and poke into its smoky entrails and
  utter soothing prognostications and we'll all go on as if.
    As if for instance I were someone else, Cassandra perhaps, walking
  dishevelled the battlements of Troy, uttering prophecies from time to
  time unheaded and unheeded, before being allotted as a slave to
  victorious Agamemnon. (Brooke-Rose 1984, 7)


Here Brooke-Rose quite brilliantly uses one of the foundation texts of Western humanism and its stable subject in order to open her assault upon them; the figure of Cassandra, known to speak in the future tense, undermines the possibility of a subject founded on a temporal locus.

The strength of the revival of the postcolonial and postpatriarchal subject, and its concomitant reconstitution of its relationship with classics, may in fact be evidence that society is already taking its first steps towards the preparation for the question now so avidly being discussed by futurologists, and in particular cyborgologists: who or what will constitute the posthuman and postsomatic subject? In Cyborg Citizen (2001), Chris Hables Gray reveals that an astonishing fifty to eighty percent of his North American students would, if it were possible, download their consciousness into a computer or robot in the interests of extending their lives (2001, 190). The cyborg is itself an invention of contemporary pop culture, a replacement vampire who inhabits the boundaries between life and death, male and female. There are political theorists who for some time have been advocating the idea of virtual citizenship, of membership of a new type of participatory democracy, conducted via the Internet, which links humans irrespective of any visible identifiers such as age, sex, or ethnicity, but yet bears a stronger resemblance to what went on the Pnyx Hill at Athens than to the representative procedures in the modern parliaments. But others are going way beyond the e-citizen to the notion of the postsomatic citizen, to the cyborg itself, who is seen to open a place in politics for the abolition of all boundaries related to ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, or physical (dis)ability (Gray 2001, 192).

What role ancient Greek and Roman culture will play in the constitution of the subjectivity of each member of the posthuman community is, of course, as yet an unanswerable question, and it may be a harebrained one. But it is suggestive to find a recent survey of the issues (Gray 2001), written by someone with very little training or interest in intellectual history, engaging perforce with ideas received from Greek and Roman antiquity. Gray adduces Plato's realm of ideas to illustrate the potential of posthumanity, and refers the reader to the Greek root ("steer") of the cyber-verbal stem. He also explores at length the parallel notions of the vampire (which he is unaware is a late antique figure, the first truly vam-piric figure in Western canon being the bride of Menippus in book 4 of Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, who would never have come into his imaginary being without the Greeks' imaginary Prometheus (Gray 2001, 191-9). The subjectivity of the posthuman, at least as currently prognosticated, thus seems likely to lose nothing of its inherent need to define itself in terms of the known temporal as well as corporeal loci of the distant past. (36)

Notes

(1) For a survey of this, see Baumeister 1998.

(2) For the Foucault essay, see Foucault 1988, 16-49, with the discussion of Humphries 1997. For some fascinating observations on the importance of considering Augustine in any discussion of "the personal voice" in classical literature and scholarship, see Martindale 1997, 84-90.

(3) See the essays by Caton, Taylor, Menn, Boyne, and esp. Atkins's discussion of Descartes' Meditation II in Atkins 2005, pt. 1.1.

(4) See Heidegger 1959, 107: "Our relation to everything that makes up being, truth, and appearance has long been so confused, so devoid of foundation and passion, that even in our manner of interpreting Greek poetry and making it our own we barely suspect the power wielded by this poetic discourse in Greek being-there."

(5) See Halliburton 1988, 261. For a wide-ranging survey of the sense of self and identity over different cultures, which nevertheless traces the twentieth-century Western version back to late antiquity, see the seminal article of Mauss 1985 (originally published in 1938).

(6) James McCune Smith, speaking in 1851, as quoted in Gates 1987, 132.

(7) For some individual classical scholars' accounts of the way that ancient texts have informed their self-definition and perspectives on the world, see Van Nortwick 1997, with the bibliography on p. 24; de Luce 1997.

(8) Jonathan Rose 2001, 4-5, quoting from Haw 1917, 22.

(9) Yearsley 1787, 93-9; see Waldron 1996, 155-7.

(10) Wheatley 2001, 9-10. The simple profundity of Wheatley's identification with Terence must surely remind us that our subjectivity, at the onset of the twenty-first century, must be aware of the competing tension between local-national, ethnic, and global identity. Those of us who are British may well find ourselves responding to the way that the Roman empire and the Roman past had to become accommodated to the subjectivity of (as Lateiner [2003, 433] has recently put it) "the educated Jew Josephus, the Gallic Tacitus, the Spanish Martial, the Syrian Lucian, and the African Apuleius."

(11) The Colored American for 6 May 1837, quoted in Gates 1987, 128.

(12) See, e.g., Scheie 1998, who uses the term "postpoststructuralist" in reference to the widespread phenomenon of what might equally be called the neoethical focus of postcolonial and postfeminist theory, as articulated in Judith Butler's understanding of the term performative in her classic 1990 article on the performance of gender: "The notion that identity results from a performative gesture, rather than being grounded in fixed and stable categories of the subject, offers a much desired theoretical direction for the efforts of writers, critics, and others who seek to change a repressive and patriarchal status quo and who, in our postpoststructuralist world, can neither triumphantly announce the dissolution of subjectivity nor fall back on essentialist or determinist accounts grounded in a purportedly truthful 'real'" (520).

(13) Rhet. 3.1418b30 = Archilochus, frag. 19 (West [Iambi et elegi graeci]). See also Herodotus 1.12.2; Ford 2002, 147.

(14) Carnegie (1990, 133-4) cites sentiments that approximate to several passages in the Meditations from "old Marcus Aurelius, one of the wisest men ever to rule the Roman Empire"; see also Carnegie 1990, 231.

(15) Clinton is said to have revealed that Marcus Aurelius's Meditations was his favorite book at an unnamed gathering described in Marquez 1999, 1.

(16) The interpretive contribution of both the translator and of the scholar establishing a correct edition of a particular text had already been fully appreciated by both Heidegger and Gadamer; see Benjamin 1988b, 2.

(17) A particularly irritating example among the hundreds that could be adduced occurs in Theocritus's "Adonia" idyll. The old Loeb translator J. M. Edmonds's rendering of ha tas Argeias thugater as "that Argive person's daughter" (15.97), in reference to the expert operatic diva performing the aria in Ptolemy's palace, obscures entirely the force of the point being made in this poem about the importance of matrilineal descent and status within female communities and rituals.

(18) Pap. Oxy. 2617, frag. 4, 9-17 = SLG, frag. 15, col. 1, 14-7.

(19) Pap. Oxy. 2617, frag. 5, 14-7.

(20) See further Hall, Forthcoming b. Carson's Autobiography of Red (1999a) is an exercise in intertextual construction of the subject unparalleled in its elaboration and complexity, as has been noticed by departments of English and comparative literature all over North America. It is now possible to download and plagiarize essays on this poem, the latter which has become a set book on numerous university literature syllabi; subjectivity is prominent among the available titles. See, e.g., the anonymous WowEssays.com essay "Subjective Reality in Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red," available at $12.95 per page.

(21) For a survey of the uses to which Penelope's consciousness has been put in some recent poetry by both women and men, see Clayton 2004, 92-122. On feminism and Penelope, see also Hall, Forthcoming c, ch. 9.

(22) There will be an essay on this novel, with a focus on the identity of the narrator, by Emma Bridges in Bridges et al., Forthcoming.

(23) The satyrs of Sophocles' Ichneutae first jumped through their papyrus in the theater at Delphi in 1988, and the National Theatre in London in 1989; The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus is published as Harrison 1990 and in Harrison 2004.

(24) On postmodernity and fragmentation, see, e.g., Derrida 1987 and Bauman 1995. A course, "The Theory of the Fragment," is available in the English department at Sussex University: <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/english/898Q3.html> (September 30, 2006).

(25) For this dramatic experiment, I recently translated into English the remaining fragments and testimonia that do or may come from Euripides' Alcmaeon in Corinth (a tale of averted father-daughter incest). The new play based on them was performed in September 2004 at Live Theatre in Newcastle. The composing process included workshops where the actors had to improvise the scenes of the play round a handful of fragments and a basic plot line. This play was the third Euripidean tragedy performed posthumously in 405 B.C.E., coming between Iphigenia in Aulis and Bacchae. Reconstructing it, however creatively, certainly made it possible to think about how these three plays, grouped together and performed by the same actors and chorus members, will originally have interacted; see further Teevan 2004, 9-15.

(26) This phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s has retrospectively been stressed in the editorial preface to a collection of excerpts from the influential Performing Arts Journal and Performance Art magazine (all of which were published between 1976 and 1998, during the period when the subject began to return). The editor Bonnie Marranca summarizes the shifts in focus over those ensuing two decades. The conversations "turned from space to text and narrative to fragment, from the modernist heritage to postmodernism ... from group to solo ... from the situation of the object to subject positions" (Marranca 1999, xi).

(27) See, e.g., Ruden 1997, ch. 1 (addiction survival) and Waites 1993, 1 (incest and abuse survivors).

(28) See Lee 2001: "The very personal perspective which Tritle employs makes From Melos to My Lai in some ways less compelling as an investigation of ancient Greek warfare and society. Perhaps most significantly, by insisting on exact and consistent cross-cultural matches between Greece and the United States, Tritle tends to read more than is warranted into the ancient evidence. There are as well points where his analysis does not adequately address the divergences between ancient and modern experiences."

(29) For a full and fascinating account of Knox's war experiences, and a consideration of the impact they had on his interpretations of Sophocles in The Heroic Temper, see now Jones 2002.

(30) See also, e.g., "Survival," the title of ch. 11 of Simon 2002. Philip Levine's poem The Survivor, though not about the Holocaust as such, involves the experience of the poet's grandfather, forced to migrate to the United States: "Once upon a day in 1940 / a little man had to leave / his dinner and save his life / and go with his house / on his back, sleeping nowhere ..." (see Gillan and Gillan 1994, 48-9).

(31) BJ 3.387-92, 432-42. The best discussion of the whole episode and its place in the construction of Josephus's autobiography and authorial persona is Rajak 2002, 166-73.

(32) Survival by the African American poet Primus St. John (originally in his collection Skins on the Earth, republished in St. John 1999, 47) unambivalently addresses the Afro-American subject's ancestry: "Where is my father? / Black got the man, / Deep inside, / All by himself." On the very different, political importance of the "Survival!" slogan during the struggle against South African apartheid, see the collaborative drama Workshop '71, Survival in Kavanagh 1981, 125-71 (esp. 170) and Sheckels 1996, 84.

(33) Donna Lane's Survival explores the experience of cancer and mastectomy to a lesbian hoping to embark on an affair (Blackman and Healey 1994, 72). Jennifer Bates's poem The Survivor concerns a woman who kills the man who has battered her for years (Bates 1998, 2). The topics of Carol Staudacher's Survivor are old age, its psychological delusions, and the comfort of religious faith (Sumrall and Vecchione 1997, 233). James Merrill's A Survival meditates on emerging from sleep after dreaming about a dead father (Merrill 2001, 109).

(34) Longley 199 1, 52. For a discussion of Longley's highly individual response to the Odyssey, see now Hardwick 2004, 357-61.

(35) D'Angour 2000, summarizing the argument developed in detail in D'Angour 1998.

(36) This essay has benefited greatly from the reactions and suggestions of Fiona Macintosh, who kindly read the typescript, and of several people at the conference, especially Barbara Goff, Maria Wyke, Phiroze Vasunia, and Catharine Edwards. I am very grateful to all of them.

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