Orpheus with His Lute: Poetry and the Renewal of Life

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Southern Illinois University Press, 1992 - 227 Seiten

The Orpheus myth has fascinated Western culture from the sixth century B.C. to the present.

This book defines, through a survey of the European tradition of literature, art, poetry, and music, some of the philosophical and psychological implications and developments of that myth. A number of the main expressions of the Orpheus tradition are considered in detail: the Ovidian romances of the Middle Ages, the tragic love story of Renaissance opera (but not of The Magic Flute), and, in the earlier tradition of Orpheus as savior or shaman, the poem known as "The Testament of Orpheus" and catacomb iconography equating Orpheus with Christ.

Comparison of the different treatments of the Orpheus legend by poets and artists in the Greco-Roman world shows a number of wide-ranging and often conflicting developments from the early story of the divinely inspired poet-musician. Orpheus was believed to have aroused responses from inanimate nature as well as from living creatures, bringing about a peaceful order and even—in rare cases—restoring the dead to life.

As the supreme poet-musician of Greek tradition, the figure of Orpheus embodies the most central and persistent elements in Greek ideas of poetry, music, and artistic creativity. His journey to Hades has led him to become, for some, a Christ figure; for others, he descended into the unconscious and received awareness of timeless truths and creative power; through the Orphic cult his followers tried to attain some kind of eternal life; the loss of his bride Eurydice and his eventual dismemberment likewise provide material rich for the anthropologist, psychologist, and artist.

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Über den Autor (1992)

Elisabeth Henry has taught at the Universities of Manchester and Sheffield. Her works include The Annals of Tacitus; The Mask of Power, a study of Seneca’s tragedies; and The Vigour of Prophecy, a study of Virgil’s Aeneid.

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