Sunday, December 27, 2009

Rader, Richard. Review of Simon Goldhill, et al., eds. SOPHOCLES AND THE GREEK TRAGIC TRADITION. BMCR (December 2009).

Goldhill, Simon, and Edith Hall, eds. Sophocles and the Greek Tragic Tradition. Cambridge: CUP, 2009.

I had a dismaying experience recently while introducing Greek tragedy in my Mythology course. Out of curiosity I asked how many students (of 700) had at some point prior to my class read Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus. Only about 10 percent raised their hands. Slightly shocking. What really struck me was that the question I followed with--how many were at least familiar with the story of Oedipus--elicited the same number of hands. That's simply frightening. It's one thing to be unfamiliar with Trachiniae or Seven against Thebes, quite another to be unacquainted with perhaps the most notorious figure of Western literature, one especially with such a memorably sordid life. I suspect Simon Goldhill and Edith Hall, two of the most prolific supporters of Greek tragedy and editors of Sophocles and the Greek Tragic Tradition, a Festschrift in honor of Pat Easterlin, have had similar experiences in the classroom. I wish I could say their book is likely to right this pedagogical situation, but I'm not going to hold my breath. All the same, Goldhill and Hall have produced a fine book, one that re-appraises Sophocles' legacy in a way that repays consideration. I have (at times serious) differences regarding the premises and conclusions of some of the essays, but these I see primarily as the negotiations of a dialogue initiated by this book, one that I hope will continue even after the ink has dried on my review. . . .

Read the whole review here:

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