Here, Lowell Edmunds brings together practitioners of eight of the most important contemporary approaches to the subject. Whether exploring myth from a historical, comparative, or theoretical perspective, each contributor lucidly describes a particular approach, applies it to one or more myths, and reflects on what the approach yields that others do not. Edmunds's new general and chapter-level introductions recontextualize these essays and also touch on recent developments in scholarship in the interpretation of Greek myth.
Contributors are Jordi Pàmias, on the reception of Greek myth through history; H. S. Versnel, on the intersections of myth and ritual; Carolina López-Ruiz, on the near Eastern contexts; Joseph Falaky Nagy, on Indo-European structure in Greek myth; William Hansen, on myth and folklore; Claude Calame, on the application of semiotic theory of narrative; Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood, on reading visual sources such as vase paintings; and Robert A. Segal, on psychoanalytic interpretations.
Lowell Edmunds is an emeritus professor of classics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. His books include Intertextuality and the Reading of Roman Poetry and Poet, Public, and Performance in Ancient Greece, both published by Johns Hopkins.
Investigating Helen’s status in ancient Greek sources, Edmunds argues that if Helen was just one trope of the abducted wife, the quest for Helen’s origin in Spartan cult can be abandoned, as can the quest for an Indo-European goddess who grew into the Helen myth. He explains that Helen was not a divine essence but a narrative figure that could replicate itself as needed, at various times or places in ancient Greece. Edmunds recovers some of these narrative Helens, such as those of the Pythagoreans and of Simon Magus, which then inspired the Helens of the Faust legend and Goethe.
Stealing Helen offers a detailed critique of prevailing views behind the "real" Helen and presents an eye-opening exploration of the many sources for this international mythical and literary icon.
The narrative framework of the book includes helpful signposting so that the book can be used as work of reference, and alongside the narrative chapters, it includes full documentation of the ancient sources, maps, and genealogical tables.
Illustrated throughout with numerous photographs and line drawings, it will remain the definitive account of ancient Greek mythology for generations to come.
The essays concentrate on some of the best known characters and themes – Oedipus, Orpheus, Narcissus – reflecting the complexity and fascination of the Greek imagination. The volume will long remain an indispensable tool for the study of Greek mythology, and it is of great interest to anyone interested in the development of Greek culture and civilisation and the nature of myth.
Lowell Edmunds accepts this variation as the driving force in its longevity and popularity. Refraining from seeking for an original form of the myth, Edmunds relates the changes in content in the myth to changes in meaning, eschewing the notion that one particular version can be set as standard.