Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity

Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity: Art, Opera, Fiction, and the Proclamation of Modernity

Simon Goldhill
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rvwp
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity
    Book Description:

    How did the Victorians engage with the ancient world?Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquityis a brilliant exploration of how the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome influenced Victorian culture. Through Victorian art, opera, and novels, Simon Goldhill examines how sexuality and desire, the politics of culture, and the role of religion in society were considered and debated through the Victorian obsession with antiquity.

    Looking at Victorian art, Goldhill demonstrates how desire and sexuality, particularly anxieties about male desire, were represented and communicated through classical imagery. Probing into operas of the period, Goldhill addresses ideas of citizenship, nationalism, and cultural politics. And through fiction--specifically nineteenth-century novels about the Roman Empire--he discusses religion and the fierce battles over the church as Christianity began to lose dominance over the progressive stance of Victorian science and investigation. Rediscovering some great forgotten works and reframing some more familiar ones, the book offers extraordinary insights into how the Victorian sense of antiquity and our sense of the Victorians came into being.

    With a wide range of examples and stories,Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquitydemonstrates how interest in the classical past shaped nineteenth-century self-expression, giving antiquity a unique place in Victorian culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4007-6
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History, Language & Literature, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction DISCIPLINE AND REVOLUTION: CLASSICS IN VICTORIAN CULTURE
    (pp. 1-20)

    Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquityis intended to make a contribution to three major areas of scholarship, nineteenth-century studies, Classics, and what is often called Reception Studies. A short version of the agenda will seem straightforward enough: Victorian culture was obsessed with the classical past, as nineteenth-century self-consciousness about its own moment in history combined with an idealism focused on the glories of Greece and the splendor of Rome to make classical antiquity a deeply privileged and deeply contested arena for cultural (self-)expression. This is, or should be, a fundamental area of concern for nineteenth-century scholars. Classics as a discipline...

  5. PART 1. ART AND DESIRE
    • Chapter 1 THE ART OF RECEPTION: J. W. WATERHOUSE AND THE PAINTING OF DESIRE IN VICTORIAN BRITAIN
      (pp. 23-64)

      In the 1880s and 1890s, the art galleries of London flared with a burst of painting on classical subjects. Alma-Tadema, Poynter, Leighton, Waterhouse, and a host of less celebrated figures, produced an extraordinary profusion of classicizing canvasses, especially for the Royal Academy, but also for other galleries in London and for exhibitions around the country—pictures which were gazed at by hundreds of thousands of visitors, discussed intently in the press, and which helped form the visual imagination of a generation.

      This excitement over imaging classical antiquity takes to a particular height the embracing fascination with ancient Greece and Rome,...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter 2 THE TOUCH OF SAPPHO
      (pp. 65-84)

      This chapter picks up from my discussion of Waterhouse some of the most insistent and difficult questions facing reception theory, via the small scope of a single picture. It is concerned first with a double process, which, I argued in chapter 1, is integral to classical reception. An artist (or writer) produces a work, which engages with the classical past. Such productions are often the focus of author-centeredRezeptionsgeschichte, and how an artist (or writer) recognizes and treats the classical is a traditional topic of scholarly discussion. But viewers (or readers) also respond to such a work as part of...

  6. PART 2. MUSIC AND CULTURAL POLITICS
    • Chapter 3 WHO KILLED CHEVALIER GLUCK?
      (pp. 87-124)

      Christoph willibald gluck is an unlikely revolutionary hero.

      He had been music tutor to Marie Antoinette in Vienna and, after her marriage to Louis XVI, followed her to Paris, where he was a regular at Versailles. He was celebrated and supported in the very highest echelons of royal Europe. Indeed, he was knighted by the Pope, and always signed himself “Chevalier” or “Ritter Gluck.” He was an irascible and fierce conductor of his own music, but a bonhomous host, who died two years before the Revolution broke out, after sneaking a good slug of liqueur, forbidden to him by his...

    • Chapter 4 WAGNER’S GREEKS: THE POLITICS OF HELLENISM
      (pp. 125-150)

      After the tearful pleasures of Gluck, this chapter will enter some painful territory: painful for classicists, painful for me as a Jew, and painful for anyone who cares about the development of the twentieth century and the place of Hellenism in it. There is no comfortable place from which to look at how Wagner’s engagement with classical antiquity relates to his politics and to the performances of his operas. In the previous chapter, we looked calmly at how Wagner’s rewriting of Gluck was part of his revolutionary pursuit of Germanness. Taking on Wagner’s Greeks more fully will require us to...

  7. PART 3. FICTION: VICTORIAN NOVELS OF ANCIENT ROME
    • Chapter 5 FOR GOD AND EMPIRE
      (pp. 153-192)

      One hero of this section of my book will turn out to be Fred Farrar. F. W. Farrar taught Classics at Harrow before becoming a pioneering headmaster of Marlborough School.¹ Later in life, with the easy shift between university, school, and the church characteristic of Victorian society, he rose in the church to the position of Dean at Canterbury Cathedral, a major public role in the Anglican establishment, from where his liberal sermons managed to provoke a storm of protest from more evangelical Christians. As a young man in the 1860s, he had already editedEssays on a Liberal Education,...

    • Chapter 6 VIRGINS, LIONS, AND HONEST PLUCK
      (pp. 193-244)

      Edward Bulwer Lytton was “not an easy man to like.”¹ His lifelong friend Disraeli may have called Charles Greville the vainest man who had ever lived, but he added “and I don’t forget Cicero and Lytton.”² To match Cicero as a byword for vanity—and Disraeli was well placed to draw up an all-time list of the vainest of the vain—takes some doing, especially in the eyes of a friend.³ Thackeray, no friend, more bluntly disdained him as the “Knebworth Apollo”⁴—“bloated with vanity, meanness and ostentatious exaltation of self ”;⁵ Lockhart wrote to Scott whenPelham, Lytton’s silver-fork...

    • Chapter 7 ONLY CONNECT!
      (pp. 245-264)

      In the previous two chapters, we have looked at the intellectual background for the Victorian novels set in the early centuries of Christianity in the Roman Empire, and at the novels as a genre, their strategies of representation, theirtopoias a style of reception. In this brief final chapter, I want to change the perspective and to reset these cultural productions back into the intellectual lives of their authors, and use this to see something of the social network within which the books emerged and to which they spoke. Each one of the writers and artists who have entered...

  8. CODA
    (pp. 265-272)

    In the ultra-trendy art magazine,The Studio, a magazine that had run important reviews of Waterhouse’s work, some photographs by Wilhelm von Gloeden were published in 1893. Von Gloeden moved from Germany to Sicily in 1878 for his health, where he lived for the last decades of the nineteenth century. He spent his time there taking naked, posed photographs of the local inhabitants. These were sold partly as anthropological studies of the Mediterranean, but mostly as “classical studies”—the Mediterranean body, in the open air. Like Alma-Tadema, he posed his subjects in classicalexedraior in the rocky, natural terrain...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 273-312)
  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 313-340)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 341-352)