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Caesar in the USA

Maria Wyke
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Caesar in the USA
    Book Description:

    The figure of Julius Caesar has loomed large in the United States since its very beginning, admired and evoked as a gateway to knowledge of politics, war, and even national life. In this lively and perceptive book, the first to examine Caesar's place in modern American culture, Maria Wyke investigates how his use has intensified in periods of political crisis, when the occurrence of assassination, war, dictatorship, totalitarianism or empire appears to give him fresh relevance. Her fascinating discussion shows how—from the Latin classroom to the Shakespearean stage, from cinema, television and the comic book to the internet—Caesar is mobilized in the U.S. as a resource for acculturation into the American present, as a prediction of America’s future, or as a mode of commercial profit and great entertainment.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95427-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The thirteen colonies of the New World fought their war of independence as American Brutus against British Caesar. The design that the Constitutional Convention of Virginia adopted on 5 July 1776 as the seal of their newly independent commonwealth graphically encapsulates the importance of Julius Caesar to the very foundation of the new nation. The first seal of the royal colony of Virginia had displayed the portrait of the British king James I on the obverse, and on the reverse a crown atop the heraldic coat of arms of the Stuarts. But, in the revolutionary period, British monarchy and its...


    • CHAPTER 1 Maturation 1900–1914
      (pp. 21-46)

      In the early years of the twentieth century, Julius Caesar encroached on the lives of many young Americans. Public high schools experienced exceptional growth between 1900 and 1910, and Latin was regularly included as an option in their curricula. As working-class and immigrant children started to enter secondary education in substantial numbers, they (or their parents on their behalf) chose the study of Latin as a gateway to full participation in American life and a path to social advancement, not least because Latin was still compulsory for admission to American colleges. By 1910, only U.S. history and algebra were recruiting...

    • CHAPTER 2 Americanization 1900–1914
      (pp. 47-67)

      In the early years of the twentieth century, Julius Caesar often encroached on the lives of young Americans from two directions simultaneously. When aged about fifteen, many students read Caesar’s commentaries on his campaigns in Gaul in their second-year Latin classes and Shakespeare’s dramatization of his assassination and its consequences in their second-year English classes. The relationship between these two experiences could be quite intimate. While Shakespeare’s play was drawn on to provide tragic color and a conclusion to the Latin narrative of the victorious general, Roman history and Caesar’s writings were used to provide historical background and a prologue...

    • CHAPTER 3 Militarism 1914–1920s
      (pp. 68-98)

      Julius Caesar came to flourish in twentieth-century American mass culture not least because two key texts that were intimately associated with him—his ownGallic Warand Shakespeare’sJulius Caesar—had taken root in American state education. But historic events (like assassinations and war, whether civil or foreign) could stimulate a sudden escalation of interest in and topical use for the Roman statesman, both in and outside the high-school classroom. Soon after war broke out in Europe in the summer of 1914, the pages of newspapers and magazines, as well as the professional journals of classics teachers, began to fill...


    • CHAPTER 4 Dictatorship 1920s–1945
      (pp. 101-129)

      During the third decade of the twentieth century, concern about the centrality of Julius Caesar’s war commentaries to the American high-school curriculum for Latin developed rapidly. Nevertheless, whole books of the Roman general’sGallic Warand selections from hisCivil Warcontinued to be taught in classrooms across the United States, and Latin teachers continued to present to each other strategies for maintaining their students’ interest in this now somewhat problematic second-year set text. Writing in theClassical Journalfor April 1929, for example, Fanny Howell of Lake City, Iowa, asked her readers to picture the scene taking place in...

    • CHAPTER 5 Totalitarianism 1945–1955
      (pp. 130-166)

      As part of the prerelease publicity for its film adaptation of Shakespeare’sJulius Caesar, the Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer distributed a synopsis to the press in February 1953 prefaced by the following declaration:

      One of Shakespeare’s most highly dramatic, universally popular and widely-quoted works, “Julius Caesar” is also his most topically modern play. It deals with realities of which present generations throughout the world are well, and sadly, aware—the jealous lust for power which breeds dictatorship and erupts in political violence; the twin tyrannies of autocratic government and mob rule, and the intense human conflict of those caught between such...

    • CHAPTER 6 Presidential Power 1956–1989
      (pp. 167-202)

      At the Forty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States (held in Baltimore, 27–28 April 1956), a Latin teacher from Walton High School in New York City held up a packet of cigarettes before his audience as he reached the end of his analysis of Julius Caesar’s mesmeric “verbal magic.” On the packet’s face, he pointed out, were displayed the Roman general’s three most famous words—veni, vidi, vici—which had been designed eloquently to relay back to Rome from Asia the ease, the speed, and the scale of Caesar’s victory in 47 b.c.e. at the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Empire 1989–2008
      (pp. 203-238)

      During the last quarter of the twentieth century, from the administration of President Nixon’s successor (Gerald Ford) to that of George W. Bush’s predecessor (Bill Clinton), political commentators in the United States continued to explore questions of military interventionism abroad and executive predominance at home with little recourse to the vocabulary of Roman empire or Caesarism.¹ Until 1989, even apocalyptic anxieties about American expansion were often partly assuaged by the assumption that U.S. military growth and the creation of a colossal bureaucratic machinery at home were merely temporary departures from the nation’s republican origins, part of a Cold War strategy...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 239-276)
  9. References
    (pp. 277-296)
  10. Index
    (pp. 297-306)