Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture: The Backward Gaze

ISBN : 9780198767091

Judith Fletcher
256 ページ
138 x 216 mm
Classical Presences

Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture: The Backward Gaze examines a series of twentieth and twenty-first century fictional works that adapt Greco-Roman myths of the catabasis, the heroic journey to the underworld. Covering a range of genres - including novels, comics, and children's culture, by authors such as Elena Ferrante, Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, A. S. Byatt, Toni Morrison, and Anne Patchett - it reveals how an enduring fascination with life after death, and fantasies of accessing the world of the dead while we are still alive, manifest themselves in myriad and varied re-imaginings of the ancient descent myth. The volume begins with a detailed overview of the use of the myth by ancient authors such as Homer, Aristophanes, Vergil, and Ovid, before exploring the ways in which the narrative of a return trip to Hades by Odysseus, Aeneas, Orpheus, and Persephone can be manipulated by contemporary storytellers to fit themes of social marginality and alterity, postmodern rebellion, the position of female authors in the literary canon, and the dislocation endured by refugees, exiles, and diasporic populations. It also argues that citations of classical underworld stories can disrupt and challenge the literary canon by using media - such as comic books, children's culture, or rock music - not conventionally associated with high culture.


List of Figures
0 Introduction
1 Source Texts
1.1 The Odyssean Nekyia
1.2 Heracles and Dionysus
1.3 The Descent of Aeneas
1.4 Orpheus and Eurydice
1.5 Persephone
1.6 Elements of the Underworld Narrative
2 The Ghost of the Father: Spirits of the Postmodern
2.1 Finding the Way in John Barth's Underworld
2.2 The Anxiety of Influence in Neil Gaiman's Underworlds
3 Engendering the Haunted Text
3.1 Mutations and Hauntings: A.S. Byatt's Angels and Insects
3.2 Mutations: Morpho Eugenia
3.3 Hauntings: The Conjugial Angel
3.4 Persephone Interrupted: Coraline
3.5 The Doll's Descent: Searching for Persephone in the Novels of Elena Ferrante
4 The Wanderer's Descent: The Underworlds of Diaspora
4.1 Ascending from Oblivion in Song of Solomon
4.2 Away: Dreams of Hell
4.3 On the Outside Looking In: The Ground Beneath Her Feet
4.4 The Ghost of the Father in State of Wonder
4.5 The Catabatic Diaspora
5 Epilogue


Judith Fletcher holds a Ph.D. in Ancient Greek from Bryn Mawr College, and is Professor of History and Ancient Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. In addition to numerous articles on Greek poetry and drama, she is the author of Performing Oaths in Classical Greek Drama (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and co-editor (with Alan H. Sommerstein) of Horkos: The Oath in Greek Society (Liverpool University Press, 2007) and (with Bonnie MacLachlan) of Virginity Revisited: Configurations of the Unpossessed Body (University of Toronto Press, 2007).