*Classics Research*

I have completed research in a number of areas of the classics, all related to ancient Greek or Latin poetry. My goal is to link all of them to this site.

     The first is my M.A. thesis, begun in 1973 and completed last year. It is far too accessible and comprehensible to be published in a more expected venue. There is a version with much less Greek and other foreign languages, "The Magic Word in Homer (M.A. Thesis Thumbnail)" on my ESSAYS page, if you would prefer that. This thesis I consider my greatest intellectual accomplishment, though others may disagree. I am immensely disappointed to discover that it was published years ago by a scholar with whom I tried to work on it, one with a reputation for being secure enoough not to threaten students with plagiarism of their intellectual property. I was never asked for permission nor gave it for this plagiarism. As a publishing professional, I am fully aware of the gravity of this act and respectfully request that the person in question withdraw the paper from his repertoire. It is and always has been copyrighted. Many are aware of the true authorship and I hope that this piracy will be a great source of shame, guilt, and ridicule. The professional was quite aware of the importance of this accomplishment to me. Dirty cutlery stolen from me years ago and smuggled into my apartment yesterday is far from adequate recompense. I am horrified.

"Homeric Formulae as a Lexicon"

 & nbsp;   Next comes a set of four short papers I wrote after reading Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound, long after my grad-school days, based on two readings of the tragedy in the original Greek, along with secondary sources I could find. Beware! I have received no professorial feedback on them. Read at your own risk!

"Io and Prometheus in Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound"

"Prometheus II"

"Prometheus III"

"More on Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound"

     Next comes a piece inspired by Camus' famous essay on Sisyphus. I imagine the hero successfully pushing the rock up the hill. This was not well received by the one professor who read it. Nonetheless I find it imaginative and entertaining.

"The Myth of Sisyphus Revisited"

     Next I offer a retrospective of our nation's motto, E pluribus unum. It includes a brief reference to the Bush 43 administration as well as a poem about the fall of ancient Troy.

"E pluribus unum Then and Now." This one a prof told me had already been written. If so, mea culpa. Aren't you sick of hearing sob stories from former grad students? I look forward to posting more of my work anyway.

     Now comes a set of pieces I wrote based on Byron's Childe Harolde epic. What led to this investigation was a weeklong trip to England I took with my daughter in winter of 2000. Besides her companionship, the high point of our travels was a visit to the room in the British Museum that holds to this day the Elgin Marbles. The room was empty other than us and a friendly guard who let me touch one of the Caryatids. I do express my opinion, among these pieces, on where I think the marbles belong. 'Nuf said. My central thesis is that, despite all of the hostility expressed by Byron, he nursed a secret admiration for Elgin and that his red-taffeta grandiose entry into the Greek war of independence was motivated by a desire to equal or excel Byron's achievements. Flash! I just read at BBC News that tomorrow a magnificent new museum will open at the base of the Acrop--grounds, they say, for return of the Elgin treasures from the British Museum, including half of the Parthenon frieze. Exciting. I will keep up with the inevitable battle to follow. The Brits are to be commended, though, let's face it, for tending so lovingly to these treasures for so long. Read more HERE.

"The Case of the Elgin Marbles"

"More on the Elgin Marbles"

"Further on Elgin, Byron's Perverse, Unacknowledged Mentor"


"A Big Add-In"

"Byron (B)--Elgin (E) Coincidences"

     A cast of many have been helpful to my work on this Byron series: Gloria del Vecchio, Liza Steele, Betsy Gilliam Brown, Ann Ridsdale Mott, Nancy Mayer, and the late Sidney Alexander. Deepest gratitude to all these kind, brilliant, and dedicated souls.

     My bibliography includes William St. Clair, Lord Elgin & the Marbles: The Controversial History of the Parthenon Sculptures (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); Theodore Vrettos, A Shadlow of Magnitude: The Acquision of the Elgin Marbles (New York: Putnam, 1974); William St. Clair, That Greece Might Still Be Free: The Philhellenes in the War of Independence (London: Oxford University Press, 1972); Stephen Minta, On a Voiceless Shore: Byron in Greece (New York: Henry Holt, 1998); Byron: The Poetical Works of Byron, rev. and with a new introduction by Robert F. Gleckner (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978); and Ione Dodson Young, ed., A Concordance to the Poetry of Byron, 4 vols. (Austin, Tx.: Best Printing Company, Inc., 1975).

WHEN I BEGAN TO STUDY classics and linguistics, I was delving for origins and believed that the abstract truth was to be found in origins--the older the text, the more likely I was to come upon The Truth. In the following study, I propose, through the medium of traditional philology, that for the ancient Greeks truth equaled existence,< i>to on.

     I add a brief summary of the paper in another file, "Simplified Main Points of Truth Paper."

"Truth and Related Concepts (including projection) in Homer"

"Simplified Main Points of Truth Paper"

Now I will upload the first of two papers I completed as a PhD candidate at Boston University. These I consider my finest accomplishments there. This study, "Phoenissa Dido: Where an Epithet Can Lead," seemed a logical effort that I was surprised hadn't been attempted before. Whether or not my proof was successful, I received copious kudos for it from my Latin professor at the time. Note that many features of late-seventies-style presentation are evident: underlining because our electric typewriters couldn't produce italics, for example. It is difficult to transpose scanned text into html. So please tolerate the inevitable imperfections. Even in this imperfect form, the process took hours.

"Phoenissa Dido: Where an Epithet Can Lead." It was handed in on May 12, 1978, as a final paper for a seminar on Virgil's Aeneid.

Other than that, I speak of the language of inspiration and the structure (an outdated notion) that binds the two aspects of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo together. I don't know where the debate is now, but back in the seventies there were those who thought the two were one and others who didn't. A typical structural exercise for me--I did a lot of it in college and beyond. We just can't live without it, wherever else scholarship chooses to focus. Having trouble downloading Greek font to my Mac, I resorted to translation and phonetics, hoping most will be accessible to all interested readers.

     The second paper, "Narcissus the Venus Christ," is one of my favorites. I dissect love by means of Socrates' definitions in the< i>Phaidrus dialogue and then decide that "narcissism" as we know it is an invalid concept based on an incorrect interpretation of the myth, which really describes the apparition of the ultimate God of Love on earth.

"Narcissus the Venus Christ"

     Now for another one read, perhaps, but never returned with comments, many years ago after I audited a course on the Homeric Hymns. I was really on to something primordial. Mortals are a huge threat because they can ascend so high in so many ways. Some of those more winged among us are sucked up into the aether. Others are blinded if they sing well or see well and speak like frogs. Seeing is the same as knowing--look what happens when they coincide. Ejection from Eden, for example. *weid, "to see, know" and *wed[2] (cognate with "ode," "to speak," hence "sing" [*aweid]) The science (Indo-European) has so far progressed I don't know how to correctly indicate the roots. (I used to like to peruse the glossary of language roots to bring together unwieldy concepts and phenomena.) The process seems at once hugely simplistic and like a vortex that could engender permanent chaos in the depths of nineteenth-century concordances or twenty-first-century cyberspace. The connection is still probably not scientifically sustainable, though back at the dawn of our days I'm sure homonyms were even more powerful than they are now. Too impatient to wrestle with downloading Greek fonts to a Mac, I have used translation, which will clarify things for many more of us anyway, as well as transliteration when I quoted from the Greek (a bit of Sanskrit too, but not much).

"The Language of Inspiration in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo"

NB: There is lots more research to put up. Free time is a barrier right now--it is at such a premium. Maybe I'll get to more, maybe I won't. There are three essays on the negative influence of the scholar Jacques Barzun on the field of editing at the "Editing" link of my homepage, adjacent to this link. As to my brilliant career in classics, which encompassed lots of teaching also, I'll quote some condescending but at the same time exasperated advice I received from one of the "big guys" in the mid-seventies: "Forget about us so-called experts for a while, Marta." So I did and managed to keep my wheels turning. If he was the best, as I was led to believe, what else was I supposed to do? Go to France? The rest of my classics opus consists of an in-depth comparison of the influence of Germanic as opposed to Latin on modern English (I did the study even knowing the answer, just to experience the research project myself, and received the highest verbal kudos of my academic career from a teacher I appreciated but didn't follow very far); an early study of Horace theorizing that his opus was a metaphor for his largely nonexistent love life (I later found out that Goethe agreed with this); two later studies on Aeshylus's Oresteia and Marriage to Hades in the Greek Anthology. I did an oral presentation on the Phaethon myth in Ovid's Metamorphoses and also did some "sub-studies" branching out of my Homeric study of formulae as a lexicon (first paper listed on this page); then there were two studies of Jakobsonian poetics, one an oral presentation and the other an exhaustive dissection of Ennius's "Pyrrhus" fragment. I also translated some epic, tragedy, and lyric and did my best with a love poem, Propertius 2.15. But I rarely used translations myself, eager to commune with the language itself (I met the famous classics translator Willis Barnstone during my translation days and he was amazed that I'd never heard of him)--and the language gave back, but I wanted nothing but that and knew I could never get to my PhD because it was so difficult for me to work through Plato and Aristotle and other prose, without a lifetime to spend on only that. And through this admittedly (otherwise) poetic lens of antiquity--I could never get involved in the history--I now delve into the present, harkening to a higher authority than academe, Friederich Nietzsche, who wrote in a book including himself with his origins as a classicist, "Wir Philologen," "We Philologists," that without an understanding of the past, we can never understand the present, and without an understanding of the present, we can never understand the past. I wonder if this formula is sufficient. I have done lots of other writing all of my life, though particularly fond of research papers. I have written reams of poetry, several dramas including two trilogies, reams of shorts essays (with which Words, UnLtd. runneth over), and even some attempts at fiction and a novel or two. It's great to let it all out, as I learned from editing so many of Kierkegaard's writings in the 1990s. Subjectivity, where it exists, is ok, he taught me. I ask dumb questions and brilliant ones and realize that the latter, coming from all of us, keep civilization going. History is my prime focus these days, believe it or not--current and past--so when I asked a noted historian recently whether history truly repeats itself, and he answered, "No, our times (during the Bush 43 administration) are the worst ever!" I was pleased and stimulated. Then I tried to imagine what it would have been like to live in a medieval village somewhere in Central Asia and wake up to the sound of Attila's hordes galloping toward us, certain anihilation of all reality as I knew it. Maybe the real answer is that one concept, dread, is ubiquitous, and that life is a process of pretending that everything is ok. That's how a friend of mine from my twenties with a terminal disease managed to wake up to each day with hope. And pray each day that a cure would be discovered in her lifetime. Does it help to tell dying people that we're all dying and that hope is what sustains us? That friendship coincided with the dawn of my life as a philologist in college, a path toward enlightenment, I thought, and fulfillment. Why all the pain then? I asked her. Can you understand that intellectual suffering can be every bit as anihilating as cystic fibrosis? Even as she would have instantaneously traded lives with me, she said she understood. We're all waiting for the cure< /p>

The disease that has blurred my vision and stopped me from working on my book, which requires so much Internet research, is beginning slowly to abate--the disease that forced me back into introspection and the perspectives I have shared above. But back in those days, I would have died to marry a professor. My first classicist has already received his homage, ten years ago, in the form of a book review of an amazing opus. He realized that as much as I craved knowledge and wisdom, I needed fathering even more--so it seems from here--and he did his best, another amazing achievement rare like a diamond. But I would be remiss not to recall even farther back, my college days, when I took two independent studies, one on Horace, far beyond my limited capabilities as a fledgling Latinist and far too ambitious. The man who grudgingly agreed to study with me was a Homerist. But yesterday I took out the paper I wrote for him and realized how hard I forced him to work and how well he criticized my work. That's when I decided, right or wrong, that the women in Horace's Odes were metaphors for his life's work, his true calling. The other professor occupies another dimension altogether. Alienated from the rest of the college, he occupied a large basement workshop where he reproduced Ancient Semitic tablets as well as taught the Old Testament and other relevant subjects. Introduced to him by a former friend who now practices Middle Eastern archaeology from the University of Helsinki, he taught me, one on one, some Akkadian right from a reproduction of an ancient tablet and also the oldest Indo-European language of them all, Hittite, a tangential interest of his. Like a father he taught me, this lone European on campus, this Swiss Maurice Chevalier, as the college president described him when he retired the year I graduated and I whispered into his ear "Consummatum est" as he marched by in his cap and gown. Not only did he teach me Hittite; he also gave me the out-of-print, priceless books he really had no other use for. And he wanted me to take over his life's work, but ancient Semitic didn't reach out to me, even though I had studied Hebrew up until I became one of the first [female] Bat Mitzvot way back before most joined the trend. And speaking of Judaism, how can I forget the mother of my academic career, the green-eyed Mary who lived out my prior dream and married an academic knight in shining armor, the flower of them all? I don't want to leave anyone out of my previous incarnation. I have a new category of heroes now, the subject of the book I hope to get back to when my eyes heal. They are both women and men. They dwell both within and outside of those black wrought-iron gates that so limit the insights of my former gods. Like the Flower Children of the late sixties only with more lasting impact, they are socratically confronting the so-hypocritical foundations of our Golden Medina (too corrupted by the adjective and oblivious of the noun) with the principles they feign but in fact violate to an extent that is literally destroying the world. These heroes are taking what they have studied and now teaching and activating these principles to save us all at the eleventh hour. You can imagine how excruciatingly hard this task is. They never stop, never turn out the lights and go to sleep, having worked on their latest paper or book and pulled out a dogged-eared lecture to deliver tomorrow from their huge, eternally recycled files. The other-directed tendency buzzed in my ears from my college days and kept pulling me out of the Studierzimmer, to the extent that I worked full-time in the human services to put myself through the last chapter of my formal studies in Academe. Naturally I didn't have the time to complete my doctorate. The professor who could have led me to it, granted with a bullwhip because he was a frightfully learned Oxonian, had a girlfriend my age who was jealous of me and present at all the seminars. He adhered to hermeneutics but was drawn to my structuralist approach--that was one area he couldn't eloquently dismiss with some allusion to Martinis (which I never drank--my father did). The world has become my academy. Like Tennyson's Ulysses, I am a part of all that I have met and learn from everyone. I juggle past, present, and future and never stop wondering where this so-limited perspective on the real reality will take me ultimately. To a blackboard filled with symbols or a better world or both?

But one thing is glaringly obvious: this "true confession" occurred in the context of a retrospective on my days as a classicist. Never a day in my life goes by without classical allusions that fill my commentaries on today's world--what little sense I can make of it. I will put up one more study, an oral presentation (one that gained the Oxonian's respect--that and the one translation alluded to above, which I watched him read. He immediately lit his pipe and raised his eyebrows, a rare occurrence amid our interactions), and then give this corner of my webpage a rest. What more is there to know about me anyway?

Here's the one good translation I ever accomplished. It just slid onto the paper, a favorite poem of mine that anticipates to the word our sixties slogan "Make love not war," Propertius 2.15.

Would you believe that I was so nervous about giving my first oral presentation in class that I snuck to our refrigerator and downed half a bottle of Bacardi straight-up and then proceeded to do a great job, calm and poised? That doesn't work anymore and I'm not going to post that paper, but one that came much later, sort of a Poetics 101 for my fellow graduate students who studied from other viewpoints than structuralism. I will also put up a link to the handout. The paper is simply titled "Poetics." There's a fair amount of Greek and some Latin as well as four lines of British verse.

"Poetics 101" (oral presentation)

Handout to support "Poetics 101" presentation

Here is one of the later papers of my third decade, "Marriage to Hades in the Greek Anthology," a study of a morbid subcategory of a delightful genre, the epigraph. I focus on epitaphs, and, to focus in further, the subcategory of virgins who died before their weddings. I posit a comparative analysis of those I found. Click on the link and enjoy. Take out your handkerchiefs if you're emotional.

PS: Please be aware that the compositor of this paper is in the process still of ironing out some glitches--especially the displayed epigraphs.

And here you can read the satyr play to what may be considered a tragedy or an initiation, jumping over those black wrought-iron, ivy-laden gates and confronting the plight of humanity with all that's right and all that's wrong. Academe is nobody's fault. It's just there.

Beyond the tragedy and its satyr play are my personae poems: what it's like to be any one of a selection of characters out of Greek myth and legend. I also include a brief "postcard from Pompeii," the Roman intruder into the "banquet."

All content Copyright (c) Marta Steele, 1973-2023.