Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity: Art, Opera, Fiction, and the Proclamation of Modernity (Martin Classical Lectures)
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How did the Victorians engage with the ancient world? Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity is a brilliant exploration of how the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome influenced Victorian culture. Through Victorian art, opera, and novels, Simon Goldhill examines how sexuality and desire, the politics of culture, and the role of religion in society were considered and debated through the Victorian obsession with antiquity.
Looking at Victorian art, Goldhill demonstrates how desire and sexuality, particularly anxieties about male desire, were represented and communicated through classical imagery. Probing into operas of the period, Goldhill addresses ideas of citizenship, nationalism, and cultural politics. And through fiction--specifically nineteenth-century novels about the Roman Empire--he discusses religion and the fierce battles over the church as Christianity began to lose dominance over the progressive stance of Victorian science and investigation. Rediscovering some great forgotten works and reframing some more familiar ones, the book offers extraordinary insights into how the Victorian sense of antiquity and our sense of the Victorians came into being.
With a wide range of examples and stories, Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity demonstrates how interest in the classical past shaped nineteenth-century self-expression, giving antiquity a unique place in Victorian culture.
horriﬁed fascination.26 “The theme of religious bigotry,” particularly focused on a naked female form, “would have been especially pertinent” this year, as Allison Smith has wonderfully uncovered,27 since a group of religious men, led by J. C. Horsley, and promoted by Lord Haddo (George Gordon), actively led protests against the immorality of nudes in art, and especially the use of nude models in art schools.28 One of the more distinguished paintings in the Academy exhibition of 1885 was
promises to provide a yet unachieved veil of modesty. The catalogue entry opens the painting to narrative comprehension, but also draws attention to the remarkable version of the poem that Waterhouse provides, both in his catalogue and in his picture. It would seem that Waterhouse’s response to Prudentius is intimately tied up with his artistic response to genre and to religion—to his theological and painterly values. The catalogue entry is read differently according to how much knowledge of
hanging on every word.”109 (The last clause slyly notes Berlioz’s self-dramatizing need for an audience and his audience’s slightly uncomfortable consciousness of it.) Berlioz wrote often and passionately about Gluck in newspaper and journal articles110 and in his letters (Berlioz, unlike Wagner, is a marvelous writer, and his autobiography’s sharp wit and staggering self-conﬁdence makes for a great read, but also demonstrates how he could make himself so unpopular). He also used Gluck as his
cultural and material richness, and an era when the practice and arguments about classical education, a fascination with ancient sexuality as a counter-culture to contemporary behavioral patterns, and an aesthetic engagement with antiquity, combined to make a perfect storm around the classical. The word “Victorian” appears in the title to indicate that the book focuses here (rather than on Romantic philhellenism, say), but no reader should be surprised or complain that the argument ranges much
of Canterbury also wrote two inﬂuential novels about Christianity during the Roman Empire, one on Nero and the other on John Chrysostom. The ﬁrst, Darkness and Dawn explored the earliest days of Christianity, where the luridly corrupt Nero leads a mad persecution of the new religion; the second, Gathering Clouds, showed how the church turned against its own ﬁrst principles and sank into internecine argument and petty corruption. This section of Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity is going