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Classical Literature: A Concise History (Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World) Paperback – 5 Feb 1991

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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  • Classical Literature: A Concise History (Blackwell Introductions to the Classical World)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 370 pages
  • Publisher: WB; 1 edition (5 Feb. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631231331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631231332
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.8 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 712,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"The book is a tour de force ... Rutherford speaks directly to his readers, telling them what they need to know to set a work into its historical and social context ... Even scholars who are completely familiar with all the texts Rutherford discusses will profit from consulting this book." Times Literary Supplement

′Rutherford′s book provides an accessible, affordable, and concise introduction to its topic.′ Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"As well as Rutherford′s broader constituency, this book should make particularly invaluable reading for undergraduates, sixth–formers who are looking to pursue Classics at university (and it should be a must for school libraries)." Greece and Rome

From the Back Cover

This accessible one–volume survey of the literature of Greece and Rome covers the period between Homer, around 700 bc, and Augustine, around ad 410. It highlights what is important historically and what is of continuing interest and value in the literature of classical antiquity.


The author s introduction sets out essential preliminary material concerning the history of the ancient world, the nature of literary genres and the transmission of texts. Each subsequent chapter is concerned with a particular genre or aspect of literature, and traces the development of that genre over time. This structure allows the reader to see continuities between different periods and to move easily between the Greek and Roman worlds. Extensive quotations in English, a timeline and an index of authors help to make the material as accessible as possible.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book gives an excellent overview of all the major writers, and includes intriguing insights into some lesser writers too. The literature is set in a historical framework, without being smothered by issues arising from context. The idea of literary genre, and the evolution of different genres, is beautifully treated, and enlightening to a modern reader less familiar with ancient literary practice: for example, the chapter on rhetoric. Organisation in thematic chapters makes eminently good sense. Balancing the broad sweep covered by the book, examples from specific texts are treated with enjoyable zest and subtlety. The occasional dry wit of the writing is most appealing. Having read the book myself, I bought copies as gifts for teenage sons studying classics. They loved it!
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Format: Paperback
I bought this as a student studying Classical Civilisations at uni. This book is wonderful, and although I originally bought it for a tragedy module, it covers all aspects of classical literature so I'm sure to be using it again soon.
The book is well thought out, interesting and easy to use and reference.
I would suggest this to anyone who is interested in classical literature, but especially those studying, from a-level and upwards.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An easy to read book that contains broad coverage over a number of areas.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What you need to bother with re: classical literature 24 Mar. 2009
By Dogger Banks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had been into classical literature for a while but was at a loss as to which works I needed to worry about, and which were perhaps of lesser importance. (I never studied literature or classics at university.)
This book is a fantastic overview of the subject, divided by genre (e.g. epic, drama, rhetoric, history, etc) and chronologically within that. It is not a dictionary, but is a readable discourse on the subject, not at all stuffy. It also has an excellent suggested further reading list at the back. The time period covered is roughtly 700 B.C. to 400 A.D.
I think helps to have read at least a sample of the works that Dr. Rutherford talks about, but I certainly haven't read them all, and am really enjoying the book. Excellent reading for the armchair classicist!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seriously excellent 20 April 2012
By David Auerbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best overviews of classical literature, as well as a handy quick reference. "Classical literature" is the convention for Greek and Latin literature starting from Homer in ~700BC to sometime in the late Roman empire. (Rutherford picks 410 AD and Augustine's City of God as his stopping point, which is reasonable since people can't even agree on when the Roman Empire ended these days.) Rutherford contextualizes a huge amount of poetry and prose into a reasonably comprehensible framework in 300 pages. His success is pretty amazing.

Rutherford's division into genres is the smartest move. Rutherford traces each genre chronologically helps fix the general sequence of works in your mind without overwhelming you with too many works at once. So the chapters on Epic, Drama, Rhetoric, and Philosophy each give mostly self-contained chronological overviews of key works, while referencing linkages to other genres. Rutherford admits his divisions are fluid and sometimes arbitrary: the chapter on "History, Biography, and Fiction" is basically three mini-chapters that happen to fall loosely in line chronologically. But this doesn't pose a problem.

Within each genre, Rutherford hits the big names but also many smaller ones as well (some only extant in fragments): his chapter on epic goes over the Epic Cycle, Appollonius, Lucan, Statius, and even Silius, in addition to Homer and Virgil. So rather than just calling out the Great Books, he gives an idea of how trends in literature produced high points and lesser ones, and the cycles of influence and reception that occurred. You can gripe about minor omissions like Nonnus or Sextus Empiricus, but overall he is quite comprehensive.

Rutherford's focus is on literature and rhetoric rather than the history of ideas, and the chapters on philosophy and religion are less satisfying than the rest of the book because there just isn't room to outline the systems of Plato and Aristotle in sufficient detail. Rutherford is content to describe their historical and literary significance before going on to Lucretius and Virgil's Georgics.

Nonetheless, on literature the book is extremely satisfying and the annotated bibliography is rock-solid, giving a handful of works on each genre. He doesn't just go for the latest trends, but calls out important earlier works. He recommends Burckhardt, Dodds, Curtius, and Auerbach, and I'm with him that they're more inspiring than all but a handful of academics today, even if they're sometimes out of date.
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