With the publication of Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, widely considered a classic in Modern Greek studies and in collateral fields, Margaret Alexiou established herself as a major intellectual innovator on the interconnections among ancient, medieval, and modern Greek cultures. In her new, eagerly awaited book, Alexiou looks at how language defines the contours of myth and metaphor. Drawing on texts from the New Testament to the present day, Alexiou shows the diversity of the Greek language and its impact at crucial stages of its history on people who were not Greek. She then stipulates the relatedness of literary and "folk" genres, and assesses the importance of rituals and metaphors of the life cycle in shaping narrative forms and systems of imagery.
Alexiou places special emphasis on Byzantine literary texts of the sixth and twelfth centuries, providing her own translations where necessary; modern poetry and prose of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and narrative songs and tales in the folk tradition, which she analyzes alongside songs of the life cycle. She devotes particular attention to two genres whose significance she thinks has been much underrated: the tales (paramythia) and the songs of love and marriage.
In exploring the relationship between speech and ritual, Alexiou not only takes the Greek language into account but also invokes the neurological disorder of autism, drawing on clinical studies and her own experience as the mother of autistic identical twin sons.
"With the sureness of touch that comes from a life-long study, Alexiou guides us through the many registers of the Greek language, ancient, medieval, and modern. She explores the connection between language, myth and ritual, stressing the role of women in the transmission and integration of the past. This is a magisterial work in the best tradition of British Hellenists."
Angeliki Laiou, Dumbarton Oaks Professor of Byzantine History, Harvard University
"Many of us have waited eagerly for the sequel to Alexiou's first book, and After Antiquity fulfills our expectations as it examines the interconnectedness between medieval and modern Greek culture in a totally refreshing and up-to-date manner. This book is made especially interesting—and poignant—owing to Alexiou's testimony regarding language and ritual in relation to autism, testimony derived from her own autistic children. After Antiquity will stand as a major statement by one of the best trained and most scrupulous scholars in the field."
Peter Bien, Dartmouth College
"Alexiou is concerned with connections.... She juxtaposes ancient, Byzantine, and modern Greek texts, literary and folk culture, speech and ritual. She connects scholarship to personal experience, too, as the mother of two autistic sons, bringing the obsessive ritualism of the autistic to bear as evidence of what ritual is and does.... This is a book written out of love of Greece, past and present."
"The subject of this remarkable book is nothing less than the entire verbal and performative culture of Greek-speakers since about the time of the New Testament.... In many ways this book is the summation of a lifetime's achievement.... Alexiou's range is unrivalled in contemporary scholarship.... One thing does shine through in these pages, and that is Alexiou's visceral understanding and deep love for Greek life, the Greek language, and the extraordinary variety and richness of its manifestations over a recorded history so long as to defeat the imagination of most of us."
"This study is a perfect example of how to demonstrate with critical acumen and authority the vital, graphic, and obvious links between antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the present. Admirably and amply documented, the volume will serve as an indispensable reference tool in a wide variety of disciplines—among them, language and literature, intellectual history, philosophy, and folklore. Summing Up: Essential."
"After Antiquity appears in the wide-ranging and imaginative series Myth and Poetics edited by Gregory Nagy and published by Cornell Press.... It not only fits well into the series Nagy has nurtured; it might be said to represent in a single volume the originality and broad reach of the series.... Alexiou's sweeping survey of 2000 years of Greek texts depends, for its unity, on her conclusion that there is, and has always been, a constant interaction between ritual, myth, and language in Greece, much of it enriched by the language of the New Testament. She argues for mutual interaction rather than a linear concept of mythological genres, and for the performative nature of ritual behavior and metaphoric speech in Greece. Throughout her book she stresses the importance of women's participation in this complex, shared system that encompasses everything from shopping for baby clothes to lamenting the dead in its generous embrace."
International Journal of the Classical Tradition