What We Are Reading Today: Epic and Empire by David Quint

What We Are Reading Today: Epic and Empire by David Quint
Short Url
Updated 13 January 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Epic and Empire by David Quint

What We Are Reading Today: Epic and Empire by David Quint

Alexander the Great, according to Plutarch, carried on his campaigns a copy of the Iliad, kept alongside a dagger; on a more pronounced ideological level, ancient Romans looked to the Aeneid as an argument for imperialism. In this major reinterpretation of epic poetry beginning with Virgil, David Quint explores the political context and meanings of key works in Western literature. He divides the history of the genre into two political traditions: The Virgilian epics of conquest and empire that take the victors’ side (the Aeneid itself, Camoes’s Lusíadas, Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata) and the countervailing epic of the defeated and of republican liberty (Lucan’s Pharsalia, Ercilla’s Araucana, and d’Aubigné’s Les tragiques). These traditions produce opposing ideas of historical narrative: a linear, teleological narrative that belongs to the imperial conquerors, and an episodic and open-ended narrative identified with “romance,” the story told of and by the defeated.

Quint situates Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained within these rival traditions. He extends his political analysis to the scholarly revival of medieval epic in the late 18th and 19th centuries and to Sergei Eisenstein’s epic film, Alexander Nevsky. Attending both to the topical contexts of individual poems and to the larger historical development of the epic genre, Epic and Empire provides new models for exploring the relationship between ideology and literary form.


What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Updated 25 January 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant — in the blink of an eye — that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple, the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball and the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. 

Blink reveals that great decision-makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing” — filtering the very
few factors that matter from a number of variables.