Greek Language, Myth, and Metaphor
With the publication of Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, widely considered a classic in Modern Greek studies and in collateral fields, Margaret Alexiou established herself as a major intellectual innovator on the interconnections among ancient, medieval, and modern Greek cultures. In her new, eagerly awaited book, Alexiou looks at how language defines the contours of myth and metaphor. Drawing on texts from the New Testament to the present day, Alexiou shows the diversity of the Greek language and its impact at crucial stages of its history on people who were not Greek. She then stipulates the relatedness of literary and "folk" genres, and assesses the importance of rituals and metaphors of the life cycle in shaping narrative forms and systems of imagery.
Alexiou places special emphasis on Byzantine literary texts of the sixth and twelfth centuries, providing her own translations where necessary; modern poetry and prose of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and narrative songs and tales in the folk tradition, which she analyzes alongside songs of the life cycle. She devotes particular attention to two genres whose significance she thinks has been much underrated: the tales (paramythia) and the songs of love and marriage.
In exploring the relationship between speech and ritual, Alexiou not only takes the Greek language into account but also invokes the neurological disorder of autism, drawing on clinical studies and her own experience as the mother of autistic identical twin sons.