Precious repositories of ancient wisdom? Musty relics of outmoded culture? Timeless paragons of artistic achievement? Hegemonic tools of intellectual repression? Just what are the classics, anyway, and why do (or should) we still pay so much attention to them? What is the literary canon? What is myth, and how do we use it? These are some of the questions that gave rise to John Kirby's "Secret of the Muses Retold". This new study of works by five 20th-century Italian writers investigates the abiding influence of the Greek and Roman classics, and their rich legacy in our own day. The result is not only a splendid introduction to contemporary Italian literature, but also a lucid and stimulating meditation on the insights that writers such as Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino have tapped from the wellspring of ancient tradition. Kirby's book offers an impassioned plea for the recuperations of the humanities in general, and of classical studies in particular. No expertise in Greek, Latin, Italian or literary theory is presumed, and both traditional and postmodern perspectives are accommodated.
John T. Kirby is a professor of classics and comparative literature at Purdue University. His other books include "The Rhetoric of Cicero's Pro Cluentio," "The Comparative Reader: A Handlist of Basic Reading in Comparative Literature," and "World Eras: Classical Greek Civilization, 800-323 B.C.E."