Sunday, September 27, 2009

Casey Dué

Casey Dué is Associate Professor, Department of Modern and Classical Languages at the University of Houston, and Executive Editor, Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C..

Her recent and forthcoming books include Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush: A Multitext Edition with Essays and Commentary (with Mary Ebbott), Harvard University Press (2009), and Recapturing a Homeric Legacy: Images and Insights from the Venetus A Manuscript of the Iliad (ed.), Harvard University Press (2009).

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Book 10 of the Homeric Iliad. For the past four years I have been carefully reading, thinking about, and writing about this very controversial book of the Iliad, which narrates a night right on the Trojan camp undertaken by the Greek heroes Odysseus and Diomedes. Their actions on this raid and many aspects of this exciting book make modern scholars squeamish, and even in antiquity it was felt to be somehow separate from the rest of the Iliad. My good friend Mary Ebbott and I, however, following closely the methodology of Albert Lord in his path-finding 1960 book on the workings of oral poetry, The Singer of Tales, have interpreted this book as one of the only surviving extended examples of the ambush theme in Homeric epic. That fact combined with an understanding of oral poetics allows us to explain many features of the book that have been objected to by previous scholars. Our book, Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush: A Multitext Edition with Essays and Commentary, will be available from Harvard University Press in a few months.

The Electra of Sophocles. The Honors College at the University of Houston (where I am a professor of Classical Studies) is putting on a production of this play in Spring of 2010. My interest in the play is in its depiction of the songs of grief known as lament and their connection to the cycle of vendetta that anthropologists have shown to have operated in Mediterranean cultures since ancient times. (These were the subject of my 2006 book, The Captive Woman’s Lament in Greek Tragedy.) A fascinating look at a modern vestige of this pattern can be found in "Albanian Custom Fades: Woman as Family Man" (New York Times).

Lavinia, by Ursula Le Guin. This book by the noted science fiction and fantasy author is an adaptation of the second half of Virgil’s Aeneid, a Roman epic that narrates the struggle of Aeneas and a group that has fled from the destruction of Troy to found a new home in Italy. Lavinia, reminiscent of Helen herself, is the woman at the center of Virgil’s Italian “Iliad.”

Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje. I’m reading this book because Ondaatje’s The English Patient is one of my favorite novels of all time. Divisadero’s structure and language remind me of that earlier novel, in that the narrative moves through time and from place to place as we slowly come to understand the interconnections between various characters. Because Divisadero is not set in a beautiful Tuscan villa, and the Histories of Herodotus are not a running theme, I have not loved Divisadero in the same way I do The English Patient. But it is a wonderful novel.
Visit Casey Dué Hackney's faculty webpage at the University of Houston.

--Marshal Zeringue