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

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

What We Are Reading Today: Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo
Updated 16 January 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

What We Are Reading Today: Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

From the author of the New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race, a history of white male America and a scathing indictment of what it has cost us.
After the election of Donald Trump, and the escalation of white male rage and increased hostility toward immigrants that came with him, New York Times-bestselling author Ijeoma Oluo found herself in conversation with Americans around the country, pondering one central question: How did we get here?
Oluo answers that question by pinpointing white men’s deliberate efforts to subvert women, people of color, and the disenfranchised. Through research and interviews, Oluo investigates the backstory of America’s growth, from immigrant migration to our national ethos around ingenuity, from the shaping of economic policy to the protection of sociopolitical movements that fortify male power. In the end, she shows how white men have long maintained a stranglehold on leadership and sorely undermined the pursuit of happiness for all, according to a review at goodreads.com.