Cornell University Press

Richard Martin on Ancient Greek Poetry

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We asked author Richard Martin three questions about his new book, Mythologizing Performance, and his research on the writing and performance of Greek poetry.

1. What’s your favorite anecdote from your research for this book?

Because a number of the chapters of this book began as stand-alone essays over the years, and those, in turn, had their start as papers delivered in various places, what I best remember, leafing through them now, are the trips and audiences, from Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio to Athens and Crete, La Plata (Argentina), Grenoble, Lausanne, and Cambridge, UK. I also remember the pleasures of exploring other literature and media in search of useful analogies. In that regard, getting deeper into Quentin Tarantino’s movies—Pulp Fiction was the gateway drug and it shows up in an essay on Hesiod, here—was a blast.

2. What do you wish you had known when you started writing your book that you know now?

As the writing started with the earliest essay and continued intermittently over the next thirty-five years, I’d have to look back to my twenty-nine year old self, struggling to get hold of books, spend time in libraries, and scribble on legal pads after a toddler had been lulled to sleep. I wish I had known touch-typing (I still don’t, however, so maybe that answer should not count).

3. How do you wish you could change your field of study?

I wish I could get all the various experts in the multifarious subfields of Classics—history, archaeology, philosophy, philology—to try to read one another’s books (or even articles).

Featured photo: Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Credit: Clark Van Der Beken

Richard P. Martin is the Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor of Classics at Stanford University. Among his many books are Classical Mythology and The Language of Heroes.

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