As I strolled one day in the old center of Tel Aviv, I entered the house of Haim Nachman Bialik, the Hebrew national poet. An imposing building, it constitutes a manifesto of Jewish art in the early 20th century: the architectural style reprises oriental shapes, alternating arches and square forms; the decoration aims to express a quintessentially Jewish art. As I daydreamed about the poet holding private meetings and public receptions with the foremost representatives of culture and politics of his day, my eye was caught by two decorative tiles. These tiles, located at opposite ends of an arch that leads into the salon, represent two opposite moments of Jewish history: on one hand, a tile reproduces the Judaea capta coin minted by Vespasian after the First Jewish War; on the other, another tile mirrors Vespasian’s coin, proclaiming, in Hebrew letters, “Judaea liberated.”
The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice has long been a popular myth in music, drama, literature, and film. Anais Mitchell’s recent musical sensation Hadestown (which was workshopped from 2006 and had an off-Broadway debut during the 2017-18 season) is but one example of the reworking of the legendary love story. Although Mitchell’s musical is broadly defined as a folk opera, it is just the latest instance amongst many pop culture reinterpretations of the Orpheus myth across different musical genres. The tragic tale of a famed musician who traveled to the underworld to retrieve his love from the grips of death has inspired several musicians during the 1990s and the 2000s.
In March of 2019, Jordan Peele's Us was released in theaters. Much like his previous project, Get Out (2017), Us took the horror world by storm. Unlike Get Out, whose direct references to U.S. racism were the foundation of the plot, Peele left Us intentionally vague; allowing for a flurry of online theories to be born as to what his intended meaning may have been.
This month, we spotlight the graduate research of Dr. Yoandy Cabrera Ortega, who recently defended his dissertation on the portrayal of human emotions in ancient Greek myths and in modern literature from Spain and Latin America.
My dissertation was an interdisciplinary one, intertwining different approaches and fields such as classical reception, queer studies, affect theory, and Hispanic studies.
Classical reception comes in many forms—including beer. Just ask Colin MacCormack, a Classics graduate student at the University of Texas-Austin. For the past few years, he has been brewing his own beer with classically inspired names and labels that he makes himself. He often serves these brews at annual lectures or at department functions.
I can attest firsthand to the fact that MacCormack’s beer is delicious, but what stuck with me longer than either his hoppy Rye Pale Ale or his Ale Caesar! Honey-Sage IPA was the time he put into his beer labels. It got me thinking not only about the way that the ancient world is reshaped in popular culture, but what role Classicists can and should have in shaping that reformulation.
Classical reception is evident in pop-culture media like films and TV, but it is also a recognizable part of music. I began to ponder this recently after hearing BBC Radio 6 ask the question “What song should be on a playlist inspired by ancient history and why?” The following post details some songs that I’ve enjoyed over the years that feature references to ancient history and the ancient world more generally.
This article was originally published in Amphora 11.1. It has been edited slightly to adhere to current SCS blog conventions.
This article was originally published in Amphora 12.1. It has been edited slightly to adhere to current SCS blog conventions.
It is a great time to be a fan of both the classical world and heavy metal music: the two have never overlapped to the extent that they do right now. Consider, for example, the fact that in 2013 not one but two Italian metal bands, Heimdall and Stormlord, released concept albums based on Vergil’s Aeneid.
This article was originally published in Amphora (12.1). It has been edited slightly to adhere to current SCS blog conventions.