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Classical Literature on Screen
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Book description

Martin M. Winkler argues for a new approach to various creative affinities between ancient verbal and modern visual narratives. He examines screen adaptations of classical epic, tragedy, comedy, myth, and history, exploring, for example, how ancient rhetorical principles regarding the emotions apply to moving images and how Aristotle's perspective on thrilling plot-turns can recur on screen. He also interprets several popular films, such as 300 and Nero, and analyzes works by international directors, among them Pier Paolo Pasolini (Oedipus Rex, Medea), Jean Cocteau (The Testament of Orpheus), Mai Zetterling (The Girls), Lars von Trier (Medea), Arturo Ripstein (Such Is Life), John Ford (westerns), Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), and Spike Lee (Chi-Raq). The book demonstrates the undiminished vitality of classical myth and literature in our visual media, as with screen portrayals of Helen of Troy. It is important for all classicists and scholars and students of film, literature, and history.


'In an era in which people seem to live eternally in the moment, books such as Classical Literature on Screen are required reading. Revealing his encyclopedic knowledge of both classical literature and classic (as well as contemporary) film, Winker looks at work from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s and Jean Cocteau’s visions of Oedipus and Pasolini’s and Lars von Trier’s interpretations of Medea to Spike Lee’s update of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata in his film Chi-Raq. The result is a book that constantly surprises and delights the reader. Here, Alfred Hitchcock meets Aristotelian poetics, John Ford is seen as the US's Virgil, and the film 300 is thoroughly dissected in a chapter titled 'Fascinating Ur-Fascism' (a nod to Susan Sontag). Winkler’s readings are just as informed with classical antiquity as they are with the techniques of CGI in contemporary film, and his writing is lively and accessible. Illustrated throughout with an excellent series of stills, this is a fascinating, thrilling, continually surprising book.'

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  • 6 - John Ford, America’s Virgil
    pp 214-246


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