Theodore Ziolkowski has been writing in the fields of German literature (especially Hermann Hesse) and comparative literature for some 50 years. One of his abiding interests has been an examination of what happens to the mythology, themes and plots embedded in works of ancient literature when modern writers and other artists encounter them.
At the start of his brilliant essay ‘Venice’, first published in 1882, Henry James famously commented that there ‘was nothing new’ to be said about the city. An equally famous quotation is to be found in the first edition of Murray’s Handbook for travellers in Northern Italy published forty years earlier: ‘no one enters Venice a stranger.’ (1842, p.
No one would deny that Pompeii, the city destroyed by the forces of nature – as when, in the words of the poet Leopardi, ‘an overripe tomato falls on an anthill’ – has attained the status of an archetype, outpacing even Atlantis (whose story must now be explained to the unfamiliar in terms of the fate of Pompeii).
Given the amount of excellent accounts of post-war Britain that have appeared in the past decade or so, one is tempted to state that readers of contemporary British history have never had it so good.
This is a decent book, in my judgment. That’s to say, it’s morally on the side of the angels, but it is not always on the side of the readers. Going through it was sometimes a bumpy ride and an appreciation of the merits of the book was too often baulked by one or other of a range of difficulties.
Useful Cinema begins on the perfect point, with the observation that films today ‘appear everywhere’, from ‘iPhone to Imax, from blog inserts to Jumbotrons’, so ‘becoming integral to our experience of institutional and everyday life’.
How should we live? Roman Krznaric, in The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, tackles a question as old as civilization itself from a position more fundamental than philosophy, religion or psychology offer on their own. This position is historical.
In the past 40 years the history of sexuality has gone from being an insurgent force, questioning the very nature of what can be studied as history, to an established part of the field. This book underlines that point, for it is rare today to find such a traditional political history.
Some years ago, in the midst of a conversation about tourism and travelling, a friend from one of Britain’s former colonies remarked how shocked she had been to see ‘white people begging’ during her first trip abroad to Australia.
Martin Johnes is an industrious historian of 20th–century Wales, and has published extensively on topics such as sport, national identity, the 1966 Aberfan disaster and the civic history of Cardiff.(1) Wales since 1939 is a fusion of several of these endeavours (and more), and one which has produced an integrated and fresh perspective on modern Wales.