Friday, March 30, 2012

Book the Second: The Libation Bearers

Up next is the second part of Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, The Libation Bearers. Here's a free version.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wives & Concubines

Personally, I'd slap a floral wreath and a Mother-of-the-Year sash on our feisty Clyty for seeking justice for her daughter. She's the vengeful mother bear every wronged cub deserves. Technically, one could say she helps two wronged children, her own daughter, the sacrificial Iphigeneia, and the exiled Aegisthis. The latter relationship strikes me as a bit icky though - more mama cougar than mama grizzly. Um, ewww.

So much to talk about in the second half of Agamemnon. Where to start? There's the moment on the purple welcome home mat when Agamemnon's spidey sense gets all tingly. Hmmm, why am I hesitant to go home to the wife I last saw when I killed our daughter? Why??? And how about Cassandra's crazypants, yet still impeccably attired soothsaying? I know if I were ever carried off as a spoil of war, I'd be sure to take my ceremonial soothsaying robe with me, even if I know that no one would ever believe my predictions. No wonder ABBA sang about her. I think I was most surprised by the unseen murder at the end behind the palace gate. They literally stage the crime scene for you, without letting you see all the action that resulted in it. And yet, I somehow found it more dramatic for being presented to you after all the stabby-stabbiness is done.

At the end, there's lots of talk of justice from Clytymnestra and Aegisthis, and I can see how wrongs have been righted. But when does justice become vengeance? Can you have one without at least a hint of the other? Now that there have been more deaths, i.e. more wrongs to right, will there be more reckonings to come? I'm betting yes.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ancient Greece: The Lifetime Movie

This tragedy was my introduction to Greek Drama and what an introduction it was. I would like to say that I experienced it as a great emotion evoking work that influenced Western Literature but really, its overarching theme to me was that Clytemnestra hereafter Clyty was a bad bitch. And I mean that in a good way. A really good way.

*I am using the Lattimore University of Chicago edition because I already had it. It's pretty sweet.

So far Mia has set the scene, Agamemnon, the conquering hero has returned from Troy to his patient She, La Clyty. She has laid in wait for him and kills him. This has the women's movie channel written all over it.
The imagery is evocative and beautiful, you can almost see the lights as they ignite one by one across the mountain side bringing the news of the destruction of that once great walled city.

"Oh hail blaze of darkness, harbinger of days shining"

*nerd aside* Read the Iliad for that destruction tale. PS Hector and Andromache at the gate is a tearjerker.

Anyway, as Mia hinted at in her post, the nature of female agency in this play is an issue. Are they only to be pawns or can they stab life in the heart?
Clyty who is described as having "a male's strength of heart" takes the latter route. Agamemnon may be her husband but he killed her daughter; so he could swan off to war and kill more people (#occupyArgos). Aggy trampled the inviolable and dared too much.
His number had been called the minute he sacrificed Iphigenia. The first scenes of the play laid out the sacrilegiousness of his crimes.
So she busts a cap in his posterior. You go girl!

As to Helen's agency, how much does she really have if she was goddess-spelled? Agency in the context of gods' power is a fascination for the ancient tragedians. Aeschylus tends to come down on the side of very little agency. We are as ants.

Mia, does Clyty need to ascend to the halls of Valhalla? (if I may mix mythologies). Or is she on the highway to hell?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Agamemnon Halftime Report

Greetings from the 51% mark! This is the first time in a good long while that I've read a Greek classic. The language takes some getting used to. Yes, it's translated, but the constraints of a rhyming translation produced some pretty twisted syntax that left me re-reading phrases a lot initially. Once you get in the groove though, you'll find some nice gems. I mean, sure, you'd expect something like this from a dusty old tome:
Think I perchance to sing or troll a tune
For medicine against sleep, the music soon
Changes to sighing for the tale untold
Of this house, not well mastered as of old.*
Yeah, people used to know how to properly master a house. Kids these days, I tell ya. Argos is going to hell in a handbasket. Sentimental foreshadowing aside, how about this treat for your olfactory senses:

The wrack-wind liveth, and where Ilion died
The reek of the old fatness of her pride
From hot and writhing ashes rolls afar.
Mmm, Trojan bacon! That seems a little below the belt though, Agamemnon. Troy was fat and now she's smelly? And not the good smelly, like bacon?

The most perplexing and evocative image I've read so far is, appropriately, a description of the (in)famous**, legendary SHE, without whom we would have so many fewer Greek classics to torture students with.
And how shall I call the thing that came
At the first hour to Ilion city?
Call it a dream of peace untold,
A secret joy in a mist of gold,
A woman's eye that was soft, like flame,
A flower which ate a man's heart with pity.
See, now, that's unexpected and stunning. Nice one, Aeschylus. A flower which ate a heart with pity? I could've sworn those words didn't go together. Well, except maybe ate and heart. I stand corrected.

So what about Helen of Troy, nee of Sparta? When I first heard the story of her as a wee one, I heard she was carried off. I thought that meant kidnapped, or in my wee one literality, that Paris actually picked her up and carried her to his house. But of course I know now that she was a much more willing traveler. Her description in Agamemnon certainly falls on the latter side of the victim or vixen? debate:  Though maybe vixen isn't the right word. Helen is certainly a destructive force here, but one that seems more an instrument of other wills rather than a mistress of her own. She's "Strife-encompass├Ęd," you see. Strife keeps stalking her, no matter how many times she changes her number or moves to a kingdom across the sea.

What do you think Kim? Helen only pawn in game of life?

* I learned to cite sources in 7th Grade Remedial Language Arts, and since Amazon made it easy by providing the citation, I really would have no excuse for omitting it: Aeschylus (2004-12-22). The Agamemnon of Aeschylus Translated into English Rhyming Verse with Explanatory Notes. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
** Later on in Medieval Studies 101, I learned to cleave words creatively into self-contained contradictions by means of carefully (mis)placed parentheses. You (dis)like, yes?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book the First: Agamemnon

With the deep dark dorky confessions out of the way, this dead author party can really get started! We've decided to skip the books on the original list that we've both already read. We're omitting Iliad, Odyssey, OedipusRex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello,Macbeth, King Lear, Pride and Prejudice, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Mrs. Dalloway. We're kicking off with Aeschylus' Agammemnon, specifically this free version. And we're off!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The party of the second part

I signed on to this crazy dorky plan, because lately I've been starved for a little intellectual stimulation. Surprisingly, free trashy downloads on Amazon don't supply that( shoulder shrug, who knew huh?)
Anyway, so we're doing this now and I'm a bit geeked out. It's epic.
In other crazy dorky plans I was a Classics major, so this idea was probably inevitable at some point.
And here's my disclaimer, this is not my first time at the rodeo- I have tried to read about 65% of the books on this list at some point and a lot of the others are on my To Be Read list. And for one reason or another I never finished, usually because a lot of these books need some nudity. LOL just kidding.
Right so as I was saying this may not work, but we're gonna give it the old college try.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Introduction (with disclaimer)

This is probably a very bad idea. I thought I'd say that now, so I won't feel bad if this doesn't work out.

So this is the plan: we will read the books and listen to the music on this list, and we're going to try to do so without spending any money, using freely available electronic texts. So we'll go down the list, reading and blogging. "We" is me, Mia, all around dork, and my friend Kim, who also answers to that description. We don't really have a good reason for doing this, apart from personal interest. I for one have always been drawn to pointless information and impractical hobbies, so why not this project too?

As for my western civilization background, I was originally a medieval studies major (yeah, seriously, people actually still study that) before switching over to the somewhat more practical study of computing. I say "somewhat more practical" because I don't make a living off what I learned about either the Middle Ages or programming, so in that sense they are equally useful and useless to me. However, having a degree with the word "computer" on it seems to impress people, so I would have to say that wins by a hair.