Epic Events: Classics and the Politics of Time in the United States Since 9/11

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Epic Events: Classics and the Politics of Time in the United States Since 9/11
An analysis of ancient Greek and Roman works alongside contemporary literature, exploring how these classics shape our understanding of the politics of time in America

Ancient Greek and Roman cultures have been privileged as authoritatively timeless throughout American history. American leaders capitalize on this privilege when, during periods of crisis, they allude to these cultures to offer relief, to reestablish trust in the status quo, and to promote national unity. Analyzing texts that also draw on ancient Greek and Roman material to respond to these crises, Sasha-Mae Eccleston explains how contemporary authors and artists have questioned calls for unity that homogenize disparate experiences and ignore systemic inequality. Their engagements with the temporalities of the ancient material reveal how time structures membership in the national community.

Reading, for example, Seneca's drama Medea, Homer's epics, and the verses of Sappho alongside Jesmyn Ward's novel Salvage the Bones or the poetry of Ocean Vuong and Juliana Spahr, Eccleston examines the temporal politics of major events and everyday life in the United States. Epic Events shows how ancient works that seem to insulate audiences from disaster can actually alert them to the frightening hierarchization of American life. Eccleston skillfully weaves together analyses of ancient material and contemporary texts that range from memorials, visual art, and literature to speeches and public health declarations to bring questions of race, class, and gender into dialogue with time in thoughtful, nuanced, and original ways.

Publication Date: 
November 5, 2024