In the first four decades of cinema, hundreds of films were made that drew their inspiration from ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Bible. Few of these films have been studied, and even fewer have received the critical attention they deserve. The films in question, ranging from historical and mythological epics to adaptations of ancient drama, burlesques, cartoons and documentaries, suggest a fascination with the ancient world that competes in intensity and breadth with that of Hollywood's classical era. What contribution did antiquity make to the development of early cinema? How did early cinema's representations affect modern understanding of antiquity? Existing prints as well as ephemera scattered in film archives and libraries around the world constitute an enormous field of research. This extensively illustrated edited collection is a first systematic attempt to focus on the instrumental role of silent cinema in twentieth-century conceptions of the ancient Mediterranean and Middle East.
Pantelis Michelakis is Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Bristol. His research interests are in Greek theatre, literature and culture and in their ancient and modern reception. He is the author of Achilles in Greek Tragedy (2002), Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis (2006) and Greek Tragedy on Screen (2013). He has also co-edited Homer, Tragedy and Beyond: Essays in Honour of P. E. Easterling (2001) and Agamemnon in Performance, 458 BC to AD 2004 (2005). Maria Wyke is Professor and Chair of Latin at University College London. Her research interests include the reception of ancient Rome, especially in popular culture. In both Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema and History (1997) and The Roman Mistress: Ancient and Modern Representations (2000), she explored cinematic reconstructions of ancient Rome in the film traditions of Italy and Hollywood. She won a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship to investigate the reception of Julius Caesar in western culture, since published as Caesar: A Life in Western Culture (2007) and Caesar in the USA (2012).
1. Introduction: silent cinema, antiquity and 'The Exhaustless Urn of Time' Pantelis Michelakis and Maria Wyke; Part I. Theories, Histories, Receptions: 2. The ancient world on silent film - the view from the archive Bryony Dixon; 3. On visual cogency: the emergence of an antiquity of moving images Marcus Becker; 4. Cinema in the time of the pharaoh Antonia Lant; 5. 'Hieroglyphics in motion': representing ancient Egypt and the Middle East in film theory and criticism of the silent period Laura Marcus; 6. Architecture and art dance meet in the ancient world David Mayer; 7. Ancient Rome in London: classical subjects in the forefront of cinema's expansion after 1910 Ian Christie; 8. Gloria Swanson as Venus: silent stardom, antiquity and the classical vernacular Michael Williams; 9. Homer in silent cinema Pantelis Michelakis; Part II. Movement, Image, Music, Text: 10. Silent saviours: representations of Jesus' Passion in early cinema Caroline Vander Stichele; 11. The Kalem Ben-Hur (1907) Jon Solomon; 12. Judith's vampish virtue and its double market appeal Judith Buchanan; 13. Competing ancient worlds in early historical film: the example of Cabiria (1914) Annette Dorgerloh; 14. Peplum, melodrama and musicality: Giuliano l'Apostata (1919) Giuseppe Pucci; 15. 'An orgy Sunday school children can watch': the spectacle of sex and the seduction of spectacle in Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923) David Shepherd; 16. Silent laughter and the counter-historical: Buster Keaton's Three Ages (1923) Maria Wyke; 17. From Roman history to German nationalism: Arminius and Varus in Die Hermannschlacht (1924) Martin M. Winkler; 18. The 1925 Ben-Hur and the 'Hollywood Question' Ruth Scodel; 19. Consuming passions: Helen of Troy in the jazz age Margaret Malamud.
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