Ancient Greek Literature and Society, second edition revised (Cornell University Press, Ithaca; 1987) 332 pp.


Cornell University Press undertook a second edition which I wished to revise thoroughly in light of the excessive length and eccentricity of the first.  A marvelous editor, Alison Dodge, worked with me closely just as I should have been helped the first time around to give the work better shape and continuity.  I also was able to update the bibliographical chapter, now some fifteen years on, especially making additions from the material I had gathered for the Italian translation of the first edition.  I believe that Cornell thought that this would be a book in print for decades, as a standard.  I certainly hoped so, but that was not to be (although such is my egomania that I read it over with the same enthusiasm with which I initially wrote it).  The academic study of literature had long since departed from the vantage point from which I looked at texts.  New Criticism was so passÚ, belle lettristic appreciation of the literature was almost an embarrassment.  Literary texts were understood as the incorporation of theory.  I should have written a book called Literary Theory as it is Embodied in Ancient Texts.  More to the point historicism demanded that every text be realized as a historical document.  Since the texts from antiquity have so little demonstrated or documented attachment to a known context, those who choose to explicate them as a career have if not a carte blanche then certainly almost a tabula rasa on which to deposit their interpretations.  It has always struck me as a certain naivetÚ to imagine that one knew enough about the circumstances to say anything intelligible.  For better or for worse a critic is doing no more than making the text a contemporary document.  As the poet Louis MacNeice said in Autumn Journal:


It was all so completely different
And all so long ago