Gregory Nagy here provides a far-reaching assessment of the relationship between myth and ritual in ancient Greek society. Nagy illuminates in particular the forces of interaction and change that transformed the Indo-European linguistic and cultural heritage into distinctly Greek social institutions between the eighth and the fifth centuries B.C. Included in the volume are thirteen of Nagy's major essays—all extensively revised for book publication—on various aspects of the Hellenization of Indo-European poetics, myth and ritual, and social ideology.
The primary aim of this book is to examine the Greek language as a reflection of society, with special attention to its function as a vehicle for transmitting mythology and poetics. Nagy's emphasis on the language of the Greeks, and on its comparison with the testimony of related Indo-European languages such as Latin, Indic, and Hittite, reflects his long-standing interest in Indo-European linguistics. The individual chapters examine the development of Hellenic poetics in the traditions of Homer and Hesiod; the Hellenization of Indo-European myths and rituals, including myths of the afterlife, rituals of fire, and symbols in the Greek lyric; and the Hellenization of Indo-European social ideology, with reference to such cultural institutions as the concept of the city-state.
A path-breaking application of the principles of social anthropology, comparative mythology, historical linguistics, and oral poetry theory to the study of classics, Greek Mythology and Poetics will be an invaluable resource for classicists and other scholars of linguistics and literary theory.
"Gregory Nagy is the most influential—and controversial—American classicist of his generation. This volume, while incorporating his most important essays, promises in addition to offer a unified statement of Nagy's methods and approaches, the main intellectual foci which guide his work, as well as examples of the application of his methodologies to a wide range of materials and problems."
Jenny Strauss Clay, University of Virginia
"In this extremely rich volume, the Harvard classicist G. Nagy examines various facets of the Hellenizaton of Indo-European poetics, myth and ritual, and social ideology."
The Journal of Indo-European Studies