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Book description

Cosmography is defined here as the rhetoric of cosmology: the art of composing worlds. The mirage of Hyperborea, which played a substantial role in Greek religion and culture throughout Antiquity, offers a remarkable window into the practice of composing and reading worlds. This book follows Hyperborea across genres and centuries, both as an exploration of the extraordinary record of Greek thought on that further North and as a case study of ancient cosmography and the anthropological philology that tracks ancient cosmography. Trajectories through the many forms of Greek thought on Hyperborea shed light on key aspects of the cosmography of cult and the cosmography of literature. The philology of worlds pursued in this book ranges from Archaic hymns to Hellenistic and Imperial reconfigurations of Hyperborea. A thousand years of cosmography is thus surveyed through the rewritings of one idea. This is a book on the art of reading worlds slowly.


‘There are places, not necessarily real, that enter into the imagination of a culture and shape its vision of the world. Hyperborea, that region ‘beyond the north,’ was such a place for the ancient Greeks, and Renaud Gagné has traced its formative role in Greek cosmography and theology with exceptional insight and immense learning. There are treasures on every page.’

David Konstan - Professor of Classics, New York University

'Greek religion is a constantly shifting map of songs', writes Gagné. Indeed, dynamic movement infuses this invaluable investigation into Greek cosmography, conceived here as the composition of worlds that can be found in many texts and genres in dialogue across centuries. Grounded in current anthropology, this book about the 'poetics of worlding' successfully combines a strong command of philology, an impressive mastery of scholarship and an inspiring analysis of Hyperborea as the touchstone of a broad-spectrum enquiry. It is also a delightful journey.’

Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge - Professor for Religion, History and Society in the Ancient Greek World, Collège de France

‘A truly extraordinary study of the reasons that and the ways in which different texts and traditions in ancient Greece constructed worlds based upon a notion of Hyperborea. This is a brilliant work that opens up a host of new and exciting questions concerning the workings of religion and culture in ancient Greece.’

Michael Puett - Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History and Anthropology, Harvard University

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