Skip to main content

“A Quest for Remembrance”: The Descent into the Classical Underworld

Programme

Saturday 20th May 2017
University of Warwick

09:45-10:15 Registration and Coffee (Zeeman Foyer)
10:15-10:30 Welcome and Introduction (MS.04)
10:30-11:45

(Parallel
Sessions)
Session 1: Adaptations and Refractions: Myth in Modernity (MS.04)

Chair: Prof. Michael Hulse 

1. Agata Mikołajko: “The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice- Exemplification of Modern Refractions”
(Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University)

2. Dr. Jakub Jurkowski: “The katabatic Myth of Orpheus in 20th century Poetry”
(Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University)


Session 2: The Katabasis into a Christian Hell (MS.05)

Chair: Dr. John Gilmore 

1. Chloe Owen: “'Unto the kingdom of perpetual night': Sleep Paralysis, Hallucinations, and the Underworld in Richard III and Hamlet
(King's College London)

2. Daisy Butcher: “The feminine and the underworld: representations of vagina dentata in Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno
(University of Hertfordshire)

3. Prof. Eric Brown: “The Erotics of Milton's Hell”
(University of Maine)

11:45-12:00 Tea and Coffee (Zeeman Foyer)
12:00- 13:00 Keynote Lecture (MS.04):
Laughter across the Acheron: some aspects of comic Katabasis
Prof. Edith Hall
(King's College London)
13:00-14:00 Lunch (Zeeman Foyer)
14:00-15:15

(Parallel
Sessions)
Session 3: Katabasis Narratives and Civil Unrest (MS.04)

Chair: Dr. Victoria Rimell 

1. Prof. Eleonora Tola: “Pharsalus' Underworld: (Re)constructing Memory in in Lucan's Civil War Narrative”
(Universidad Nacional de Córdoba)

2. Dr. Christina Karageorgou-Bastea: “A Season in Hades. The Search for Poetic Justice in Poesida by Abigael Bohórquez”
(Vanderbilt University)

3. Dr. Elena Deanda: “Hell is Over: Dissidence and Anarchy in Colonial Mexican Folksongs”
(Washington College)


Session 4: Heroic Memory and Hobbits: Adaptations of Katabasis Narratives in Popular Culture (MS.05)

Chair: Dr. Owen Weetch

1. Romain Vimal du Monteil: “The way is shut. It was made by those who are dead and the dead keep it: Journey into J.R.R. Tolkien's underworlds”
(École Normale Supérieure de Cachan)

2. Dr. Frances Foster: “Two narratives of Katabasis and the quest for being remembered.”
(University of Cambridge)

3. Fredrik Solemsli: “Underworld references in Hidetaka Miyazaki's Dark Souls
(University of Gothenburg)

15:15- 15:30

Tea and Coffee (Zeeman Foyer)

15:30- 17:05

(Parallel
Sessions)
Session 5: Consciousness, Subjectivity, and the Wisdom Tradition in 19th and 20th century Katabasis Narratives (MS.04)

Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Barry

1. Dr. Maciej Jaworski: A Quest for Forgetting: Orphean Katabasis according to Herbert and Miłosz"
(University of Warsaw)

2. Karen Borg Cardona: “The Wisdom Tradition in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
(University of Warwick)

3. Dr. Yi-Chuang E. Lin: “'By My Voice I Shall Be Known': T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and the Voices of the Dead”
(National Tsing Hua University)

4. Matthew Rumbold: “Russell Hoban's Orpheus: the mythopoetic vision in Kleinzeit
(Warwick University)


Session 6: Deathscapes in Antiquity (MS.05)

Chair: Dr. David Fearn

1. Prof. A. Everett Beek: “The Open Door to Elysium”
(University of Minnesota)

2. Alessando Boschi: “Condemned to oblivion in Hades: some considerations on the Pirithous attributed to Critias.”
(Università di Pisa)

3. Joel Gordon: “Remembering the real world: katabatic narratives and nekuomanteia, plutonia and charonia”
(University of Otago)

4. Jessica Lightfoot: “Raising Verbal Ghosts: Plato and the Communicative Space of Homer's Nekyia
(University of Oxford)

17:05- 17:30 Closing Remarks and Discussion with Prof. Edith Hall (MS.04)
Poetry reading by Michael Hulse
17:30- 18:30 Wine Reception (Zeeman Foyer)


List of Abstracts


Panel 1: Adaptations and Refractions: Myth in Modernity (MS.04)
Chair: Prof. Michael Hulse

1. Agata Mikołajko: “The Myth of Orpheus and Eurydice- Exemplification of Modern Refractions”
(Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University)

One of the pillars of European identity is ancient culture, either Greek or Roman. Representatives of the Manipulation School, or rather the cultural turn in translation studies, Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere connect translation theory with cultural credentials. It is concerned with ethno-linguistic perspectives proposed e. g. by Philip Riley, according to whom ‘culture is knowledge, in the widest possible sense, including the traditions and history of the group, its common sense, beliefs, values, attitudes and language. Culture is the knowledge members of a society need if they are to participate completely in the various situations and activities life puts in their way’. From such a perspective, cultural heritage seems to be one of the fundamental metaphorical languages. It is a myriad thesaurus, being derived in art, literature, cinema etc., regardless of historical, political, social, and linguistic circumstances. The subsequent concretizations not only translate ancient ramifications but also modernize them and in such a modernization it is possible to perceive the reflections of contemporary philosophical, literary, cultural, political ideas and phenomena. The main aim of the paper is to explore whether the poems Orfeusz i Eurydyka by Czesław Miłosz, Eurydice by H. D., Orpheus And Eurydice by Jorie Graham, and Eurydice by Carol Ann Duffy are modern refractions of ancient myth.

2. Dr. Jakub Jurkowski: “The katabatic Myth of Orpheus in 20th century Poetry”
(Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University)

The poet in European literature is a creator of a mythical pattern of behavior for his own time. Vergilian and Ovidian versions of Orpheus’ descent to the Underworld have exerted so strong an influence on Western culture, that their work was canonized and reproduced through countless translations and emulations. One of the most important myths concerning cosmogonical and anthropogonical concepts of the Orphics is the myth of Dionysus-Zagreus and Titans which express the greatest mystery of Orphism: the unity of multiplicity and the idea that death is just an imperceptible moment of eternal time. One of the predominant lines of reception of the Orphic myths in 20th century poetry stems from Reiner Maria Rilke’s Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes.
Walter Strauss said that “the history of the Orphic in the modern world is an abbreviated version of the history of modern poetry in general”. The paper will present different poetic strategies, techniques and worldviews derived from Orphic myth which came to us in many literary variants in order to indicate how spacious the notion of Orpheus katabasis is in 20th century Polish literature (e.g. Z. Herbert, Cz. Miłosz, K. Wierzynski, T. Rozewicz). It will show how Polish poets use the pattern of Orpheus’ katabasis (nekyia) and how the symbolic network that served as a universal liminal experience (rites de passage) in Western Literature is displaced (Frye) and re-narrated, revealing the heuristic and hermeneutic role of the katabatic metaphor.

Panel 2: The Katabasis into a Christian Hell (MS.05)
Chair: Dr. John Gilmore

1. Chloe Owen: “'Unto the kingdom of perpetual night': Sleep Paralysis, Hallucinations, and the Underworld in Richard III and Hamlet”
(University of Exeter)

This paper considers the depictions of Hell and the Underworld in Shakespeare’s Richard III and Hamlet. I explore classical mythology, Christianity, sleep paralysis and hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations. In Richard III, I examine Clarence’s description of his dream about Hell. In Hamlet, I consider the ghost’s description of his afterlife and Hamlet’s contemplations of death.
I explore first the relationship between the Christian Hell and the classical Underworld as Shakespeare presents characters in a Christian country who describe encountering countries, ferrymen, Furies, and rivers in their descent into Hell. I shall compare contemporary descriptions of the Christian Hell with accounts of the Underworld in classical texts such as The Odyssey and The Aeneid. Through this approach, I shall consider how the past impacts on the present as it is used to represent the unrepresentable. From this, I shall move on to explore how Shakespeare’s depictions of the Underworld relate to sleep paralysis and hypnogogic/hypnopompic hallucinations. As witchcraft, hauntings, and demonic visitations are often used as explanations for these phenomena, I shall consider how Shakespeare’s depictions of the Underworld relate to this natural psychological occurrence. I shall explore how Shakespeare represents these experiences, even as they are sensationalised for the stage, through working with both psychological texts and early modern pamphlets on witchcraft and demons. Considering the frightening nature of these events, I wish to explore how they are mediated through Christian and classical references.

2. Daisy Butcher: “The feminine and the underworld: representations of vagina dentata in Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno”
(University of Hertfordshire)

The concept of the underworld continues to serve as a powerful metaphor for the entry into the unknown. Psychoanalysis in particular interprets that katabasis is symbolic of man’s entry into woman and that the pit, crypt and underworld reflect this sexual anxiety. Vagina Dentata literally translates to a vagina with teeth, however symbolically it represents the sexual woman as a dangerous castrator of man. Erich Neumann’s theory of ‘The Great Mother’ claims ‘The underworld, the earth womb, as the perilous land of the dead through which the deceased must pass, either to be judged there and to arrive at the chthonic realm of salvation or doom, or to pass through this territory to a new and higher existence, is one of the archetypal symbols of the Terrible Mother.’ The devouring womb is prevalent in many mythologies and by drawing upon Sin in Paradise Lost, Scylla and even the Devil himself in Dante’s Inferno I will highlight the manifestation of warped maternity, castration anxiety and the femme fatale which is present within these classical texts. I argue that Sin’s cycle of pregnancy and nature as gatekeeper, Scylla’s dog heads in between her legs and whirlpool imagery and Dante’s Devil as literal vagina dentata as painted in Giovanni de Modena’s Inferno highlight the strong connection between vagina dentata and the underworld. Using Neumann, Carl Jung and Wolfgang Lederer’s psychoanalyses as my main theoretical approach, I will explore how gendered evil and weaponised genitalia within the texts are interesting to discuss in terms of gender studies.

3. Prof. Eric Brown: “The Erotics of Milton's Hell”
(University of Maine)

This paper will explore the erotics of Milton's hell in Paradise Lost, particularly in his incorporation of the classical figure of Medusa. Weaving strands of memory and desire, the classical typologies of Milton's underworld have been generally passed over in discussion of Milton's poem. The inclusion of Medusa is a curious choice—James Fleming calls her a “semiotic radical, hazardously placed”—and one of the most apparent cases of Milton’s poetry perplexing his philosophy. The prolepsis of the passage further complicates the function of the figure: Medusa does not exist in the present time of the angelic fall, but will serve, along with the “harpy-footed Furies,” as a guardian of Hell when the future damned begin to fill its hollow shores and are ferried across to be burned in fire and encased in ice, to suffer “fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce” (2.599). She is a reversion to classical punishments even as she signifies the future design of Christian sin and damnation. And as a type for both Eve and Sin, Medusa finally also illuminates the complications of angelic desire throughout Milton's epic.


Panel 3: Katabasis Narratives and Civil Unrest (MS.04)
Chair: Dr. Victoria Rimell

1. Prof. Eleonora Tola: “Pharsalus' Underworld: (Re)constructing Memory in in Lucan's Civil War Narrative”
(Universidad Nacional de Córdoba)

The battle scenes in Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile must be read in the light of the poem’s both historiographical and epic codes. Within the context of Neronian culture, Lucan’s narrative links its generic duality to the role of memory, not only a poetic one (Conte 1974; 1986), associated with the poem’s genre, but also a social memory (Gowing 2005), as a reflection on Roman identity throughout the civil war motif. National past relates, on the one hand, to the symbolic anomaly entailed by the martial overlap between Romanus and hostis (Petrone 1996); on the other hand, it allows the underlining of the most tragic aspects of war, because its sacrilegious features paradoxically interweave the vanquished with the victors, and thereby challenge the Roman categories of identity and otherness (Bartsch 1997). Within such a reading horizon, Lucan reconstructs the collective memory of the city through a manipulation of some traditional epic topoi (Esposito 1987). The battle at Pharsalus in book 7 (460-646) is a key passage of generic and historical refunctionalization. From a poetic insight, I show that Lucan’s episode metaphorically builds the ciuile nefas as an underworld realm. Moreover, the blurring of boundaries between human and hellish spheres in the battleground stresses the confusion underlying a fratricidal struggle.

2. Dr. Christina Karageorgou-Bastea: “A Season in Hades. The Search for Poetic Justice in Poesida by Abigael Bohórquez”
(Vanderbilt University)

Abigael Bohórquez (Mexico, 1936-1995) writes Poesida, a lyric reaction to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, between 1990-1991. In my presentation I claim that throughout the book and insistently in the section “Retratos,” where the lyric self descends to the underworld, Bohórquez set the stage both for a process of justice and a queer performance. Like a contemporary broken Odysseus and, at times, a decrepit Dante, guided by the maternal figure of doña Sofía, the lyric voice reveals and brings to the open intimacy: the unknown, unfamiliar, yet intensely imagined proximity to eros. Love as a social discourse and action is under threat in these poems. If justice restores victim and offender within the time of social life and ethics in order for the former to be granted the status of inviolable entity the crime has divested him/her from; and for the latter to go through his/her act anew within the ethical frame s/he has violated, Poesida restores memory and hope, past and future, thus accounting for an afterlife of justice.

3. Dr. Elena Deanda: “Hell is Over: Dissidence and Anarchy in Colonial Mexican Folksongs”
(Washington College)

Hell is truly a political space. In colonial México, hell was a promised land for the mestizos (the mixed-race Mexicans) who dreamed of a different scenery that the one fashioned by the Spaniards. On the other hand, for the Spaniards hell was the end of the colonial regime. Hell thus was a political and a religious arena for social confrontation and going to hell became a political move. In my presentation I analyze a folksong called “Jarabe gatuno,” the last folksong to be prohibited by the Spanish Inquisition and the Spanish monarchy in Mexico in 1802. This song was the last attempt by the Inquisition to placate symbolic acts of popular dissidence and, conversely, it became the prelude of the independent movements that took place eight years later, in 1810. In this paper I start by arguing that “Jarabe” should be considered a political “lieu de mémoire” as it expressed the last symbolic fight that took place in Mexico between the monarchy, the Church, and the castes. Secondly I stress how “hell” permeates the stanzas of the anarchic “Jarabe gatuno” but furthermore how it spills over the inquisitorial censorship, the edict, and the monarchic bando or prohibition. As a leitmotif, hell ties both songs and legal documents and shows a dynamic of convulsive appropriation, mimesis, and conjure that unveils what I call the poetics of censorship, a poetics of both excitable and excited speeches. Finally, I analyze how historical dynamics of appropriation during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries neutralized the ‘hellish’ tone of the colonial song and institutionalized the tune, turning it into a national anthem: the “Jarabe tapatío.” I end up thus evoking two different types of censorial practices – that are less violent but more effective: dis-identification and oblivion.

Panel 4: Heroic Memory and Hobbits: Adaptations of Katabasis Narratives in Popular Culture (MS.05)
Chair: Dr. Owen Weetch

1. Romain Vimal du Monteil: “The way is shut. It was made by those who are dead and the dead keep it: Journey into J.R.R. Tolkien's underworlds”
(École Normale Supérieure de Cachan)

From the tale of Beren and Luthien’s descent into Angband to the passing of the Company under the shadow of Moria, from Bilbo’s descent into Goblintown to Rover’s journeys in Roverandom, Tolkien’s tales and poetry offer numerous renditions of the katabatic journey. Some of these versions draw openly from the classical archetype, others offer a unique and often potent take on the mythical structure we know. As the works of a philologist steeped in the mythological history of Europe, Tolkien’s works call upon narrative tropes recurrent in most classical myths, of note among which are pervasive considerations on life and death and their interdependency. As such, episodes of katabasis in Tolkien’s three major fictions – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Simarillion – tend to be of significant symbolic importance to the opus at large. I will therefore aim to study instances of katabatic events in these three texts as being both an essential part of the ‘subcreation’ (in Tolkien’s words) – that is to say episodes which are crucial to the suspension of disbelief and to the weaving together of the Primary and Secondary worlds – and instrumental to the mythical integrity of the subcreation itself. I hope thereby to present Tolkien’s works as participating of a mythical and literary tradition similar to that of classical katabatic texts.

2. Dr. Frances Foster: “Two narratives of katabasis and the quest for being remembered.”
(University of Cambridge)

Odysseus’s narrative of his journey to Hades forms part of his bid to be remembered as a great hero and to enhance his kleos. The heroic katabasis must be accomplished while the hero is alive, and it is their return alive from the land of the dead which marks out the individual as truly heroic. The heroic desire for kleos in Odyssey 11 reaches beyond the heroic narrator himself, and is reflected in the concerns of those he meets. The dead also desire to be commemorated by the living, and the katabasis of the hero is a means by which they can achieve this. Ursula Le Guin’s world of Earthsea adapts and transforms ancient heroic tropes and ideals, including a physical katabatic journey to a land only known as the dry land in the third book of Earthsea, The Farthest Shore. This katabatic journey, although the stuff of legend within the Earthsea world, is not undertaken out of a desire to be remembered, but as the fulfilment of a true heroic quest. The journey itself, as well as the location and nature of the land of the dead in The Farthest Shore draw on and re-interpret the narrative of the Odyssey. I will examine how the katabasis functions in the two narratives and the different role of memory in both texts. I will focus on how Le Guin adapts and refracts the Odyssean katabasis to create a different type of heroic memory.

3. Fredrik Solemsli: “Underworld references in Hidetaka Miyazaki's Dark Souls”
(University of Gothenburg)

There are indeed numerous underworld references in Dark Souls, but what constitutes the Underworld itself is less obvious. While the game takes place in the land of ancient lords, the land has fallen and the gods are long gone. It has become the place you go when you are afflicted with the curse of the undead, and you frequently encounters people from the past. It has, in a sense, turned into an underworld. As such, one may interpret journeying into this land itself as a form of katabasis where undead attempt to reclaim that part of themselves that make them human, their humanity. The relationship between katabasis and memory can from this interpretation be studied from within the world, looking at perceptions held of this metaphorical long lost land in the minds of the people living on the outside, and through the eyes of those that travel to it. A more traditional form of katabasis is nevertheless seen in Artorias’ descent into the Abyss. It takes the form of a hero quest, but an unsuccessful one, and he never returns. Similarly the player needs to traverse the Abyss and this thus becomes another katabasis. It is this interaction that sets games apart as something unique and it is useful to look at how the world itself and the memory of its past is utilised and presented to the player. Memory is indeed fundamentally important to Dark Souls in the way the story is told by bringing the past into the present.


Panel 5: Consciousness, Subjectivity, and the Wisdom Tradition in 19th and 20th century Katabasis Narratives (MS.04)
Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Barry

1. Dr. Maciej Jaworski: A Quest for Forgetting: Orphean Katabasis according to Herbert and Miłosz"
(University of Warsaw)

In my paper I will focus on two interpretations of the Orpheus myth written by Polish modern classics. Zbigniew Herbert in a piece of prose entitled H.E.O and Czesław Miłosz in his poem Orpheus and Eurydice (both texts are available in English translations) suggest two possible directions of contemporary reading of the katabasis story, two ways to solve the problem of the traditionally silent Eurydice. Following Rainer Maria Rilke, Herbert psychologizes the myth, whereas Miłosz allegorises it. The first poet shows Eurydice from her own point of view, that of a dead person, the second presents her as an object of Orpheus’ mourning. In H.E.O death means a radical change of identity, yielding the end of one’s old attachments: Eurydice is not at all interested in going back to the land of the living. At the same time, concentrating on his aesthetic Underworld epiphany, Orpheus forgets about the aim of his quest. In Miłosz’s poem, like in the famous Homeric depiction, the shadows in Hades remember nothing of their former lives; if the living one, says the poet, wants to exit the Underworld, ought to forget. As Miłosz shows, the Orphean katabasis myth, which ends with the second death of Eurydice, is an artistic equivalent of the process of mourning. Both authors are skeptical of dreams of love and art conquering death. In H.E.O. and Orpheus and Eurydice, the descent into the Underworld does not mean a quest for remembrance, but rather a quest for forgetting.

2. Karen Borg Cardona: “The Wisdom Tradition in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”
(University of Warwick)

The quest that Charles Marlow undertakes in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has often been described as a modern descent into the underworld. Critics have analysed how the journey into the African Congo in search of the mysterious ivory trader Mr. Kurtz contains numerous allusions to descent narratives like Virgil’s Aeneid and Dante’s Inferno, as well as how the novella represents the quest for identity common of modern descent narratives. However, this paper will explore how Conrad recalls a more specific tradition of katabasis, that which Raymond Clark identifies as the wisdom tradition. Marlow’s motivation for his journey is not simply his order to find and retrieve Kurtz. Long before receiving this order he expresses the desire to explore the blank spaces that could often be found on maps of Africa, to discover these unknown places. Furthermore, his search for Kurtz goes beyond locating the man and becomes an obsession with hearing him speak, with gaining the insight he assumes Kurtz has acquired from his experience. However, as this paper will argue, Marlow does not emerge from the underworld having acquired this wisdom as he is incapable, or unwilling, to comprehend the horror that haunts Kurtz’s final moments. Finally this paper will explore how by recalling the memory of the journey and retelling the tale, Marlow is not simply reliving the experience but struggling to understand it. Yet he is constantly frustrated in his attempts to do so, having surfaced from the underworld without attaining the wisdom necessary to locate meaning in his experience.

3. Dr. Yi-Chuang E. Lin: “'By My Voice I Shall Be Known': T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and the Voices of the Dead”
(National Tsing Hua University)

As a modernist poet, T. S. Eliot though he endeavoured a break with the past, he was nonetheless much haunted by it. Through a complicated dialogue between his personal past and cultural heritage, by shoring all these fragmented yet interlaced imageries, the poet in The Waste Land once again re-embarks on that conventional descent into the underworld to negotiate with the dead, as Margaret Atwood would put it, and in search for, in this case, the knowledge to revive a growing stagnant culture. Just as his predecessors, at the threshold of living and dead, the poet invokes the guidance of Cumaean Sibyl. Unlike Aeneas, who is being warned of the difficulty to return once entering the realm of dead, the modern poet is reminded of Sibyl’s longing to die as she withered with physical old age. And yet, the epigraph secretes Sibyl’s greatest consolation in leaving her voice to the world and that through her voice she will be known. Therefore, the modern poet attends to this prophet voice that has shed off its physical substance and by means of it, the poet becomes more susceptible to other voices of the past. By delivering these buried voices of the dead through his poetry, the poet validates his own subject actuality and poetic identity. Nonetheless, the descent into the underworld, even if it means recalling the voices buried in the depth of mind, is always a hazard and bears the possibility of life dissolution in “a heap of broken images” and of losing oneself to the underworld. In dramatizing this negotiation between infinite and finite, between stasis and change, between past and present, The Waste Land is the very embodiment of Eliot’s notion of “Tradition and Individual Talents” and another testimonial of the nature and motive of all poets: to remember and be remembered.

4. Matthew Rumbold: “Russell Hoban's Orpheus: the mythopoetic vision in Kleinzeit”
(Warwick University)

This paper seeks to explore a contemporary rewriting of a classic myth and trope: Orpheus and the epic katabasis to the underworld. Russell Hoban’s quirky and idiosyncratic comic quasi-allegorical novel Kleinzeit is the story of a struggling writer-pilgrim’s progress in a bizarre animistic world in which everything is alive, fascinating and threatening. Beset by physical illness and existential angst, Kleinzeit journeys through modern London frequently finding himself in Hospital, falling in love with a nurse, Sister, and desperately trying to write creatively and battling with the vicious Yellow Paper. But it is his heroic journey through Underground where he meets the head of Orpheus which is the focus of the novel’s mythopoeic power. Through his creative re-construction of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hoban portrays the horrors and alienation of modern urban life in order to reveal the quest for creative meaning in a fragmenting and alienating urban modernity. He will rework the order of events, alter the significance of key elements of the tale and change certain motifs or roles the characters play in the myth. Ultimately the aim of this paper is to show how, through the myth of Orpheus, Hoban works towards what Elizabeth Dipple has characterised “theological knowledge”. Hoban uses myth to explore human consciousness, language so as to recover or remember lost archetypes and symbols which will enrich and rejuvenate our imaginative and spiritual lives. In this sense Hoban’s use of myth expresses quasi-religious aspects of revelation of the sacred in epiphany or evocation of illuminating moments of wholeness, unity and harmony and also to inspire an intimate connection with an underlying original pattern or a primal source.

Panel 6: Deathscapes in Antiquity (MS.05)
Chair: Dr. David Fearn

1. Prof. A. Everett Beek: “The Open Door to Elysium”
(University of Minnesota)

Lucian’s True History describes a ship blown off course while making a sea voyage, which by this means accidentally travels to many fantastic places, including both Elysium and Tartarus. Although Lucian alludes to and satirizes his literary predecessors who have described the afterlife, he is unique in depicting these realms as places that can be found by chance. When Homer, Vergil, and others describe catabaseis, a living character deliberately seeks out entry to the afterlife and usually has to undergo a special ritual to find it, as in Lucian’s Nekyomantia. The unusual accessibility of Lucian’s afterlife sets up a further innovation: Lucian describes Elysium as a place from which someone might attempt to escape. The character Cinyras attempts to kidnap Helen and flee Elysium, while Odysseus sends a letter to Calypso saying that he regrets turning down her offer of immortality and that he will escape to join her should he find an opportunity. By showcasing the accessibility of Elysium, as well as the characters’ desire to escape it, Lucian builds an effective, humorous premise, stripping the afterlife of mystery and making it a prosaic object of ridicule. He builds further humor, as in the Dialogues of the Dead, by highlighting surprising or inconsistent statements that his literary predecessors have made about the afterlife, drawing these ideas out to some absurd conclusion. Finally, he implies that death, contrary to popular belief, is not a permanent condition but one that clever and daring people can (and may wish to) evade.

2. Alessando Boschi: “Condemned to oblivion in Hades: some considerations on the Pirithous attributed to Critias.”
(Università di Pisa)

The close relationship between katabasis and memory appears to be well represented by the myth regarding the punishment to which Theseus and Pirithous are condemned in Hades, and their later release thanks to Heracles, according to the formulation reconstructible from some fragments of the tragedy Pirithous, which some scholars attribute to Euripides, others to Critias the tyrant. The heroes, who are guilty of having attempted to abduct Persephone, are punished with forgetfulness, symbolized by the λήθης θρόνος, to which the two companions’ flesh is attached. The meeting between Pirithous and Heracles, descended into the underworld to capture Cerberus, appears like a crosstalk focused on the inability of the prisoner to see and hear his interlocutor well (Crit. F 4a Snell). The effort made by Pirithous to recover his sensory faculties, repressed by the influence of the θρόνος, allows to dispel the fog that separates him from noises and images of the world, represented by Heracles’ countenance and Greek voice, until the mutual recognition thanks to memory (see ἀναμνήσω at line 25 of the fragment). Starting from here, and making appropriate references to other textual and figurative sources, the purpose of my paper is to show the different ways in which the author of Pirithous stages the theme of memory in relation to the context of katabasis, and to reflect upon the anthropological significance of the peculiar punishment to which the companions are condemned, as well as upon the contact which occurs in the tragedy between the living and the dead.

3. Joel Gordon: “Remembering the real world: katabatic narratives and nekuomanteia, plutonia and charonia”
(University of Otago)

Katabatic narratives form a significant part of eschatological reflection (i.e. ideas and beliefs regarding the afterlife) within antiquity. Descents such as Odysseus in Odyssey XI or Dionysus in Aristophanes’ Frogs often receive pride of place in contemporary studies seeking to provide a picture of the underworld and the fate which awaited the ancient Greeks after death.
Yet eschatological reflection is a complex anthropological phenomenon. While it lacks empirical verification, it remains firmly grounded within experienced reality. One such real-world component, the study of which is currently underrepresented in contemporary scholarship on antiquity, is deathscapes: spaces which embody ideas and representations of death and the dead and which function as collective repositories of experience and memory. This paper shall explore the adaptation of katabasis narratives within deathscapes during antiquity. Of primary interest are nekuomanteia (oracles of the dead) and charonia and plutonia (entrances to the underworld): sites which were identified as the entrance/exit points for specific katabases from Greco-Roman myth and/or which recreated katabases via ritual experience. Two aspects of this adaptation will be discussed: (1) how the topography of these deathscapes contributed to their association with katabases; (2) the extent to which this made these deathscapes ‘memorious’ in their own right: i.e. their reception within later eschatological imaginings.

4. Jessica Lightfoot: “Raising Verbal Ghosts: Plato and the Communicative Space of Homer's Nekyia”
(University of Oxford)

This paper explores the reception of the liminal space of the Nekyia of Odyssey 11 in various Platonic dialogues. I will show that the idea of necromantic communication between the living and the dead is an important underlying metaphor for Plato’s relationship with the intellectual
and poetic past. As a result, previous literary depictions of scenes of necromantic communication between the living and the dead are reworked by Plato over and over again in order to explore this theme. In this paper I will particularly focus upon three dialogues: Protagoras, Meno and the Republic. Explicit citations of the Odyssean Nekyia in these
dialogues are of especial interest, but Odyssey 11 is not to be the only katabatic text which Plato draws upon: there are hints too of the reception of scenes of katabasis or necromancy in fifth-century drama (e.g. in Eupolis’ Demoi). These various recollections and re-workings of the Homeric Nekyia make clear that within Plato’s dialogues, poetry itself is in many ways now represented as the voice of the ‘dead’, while philosophy comes to represent that of the ‘living’. However, this does not mean that the potent force of poetic memory cannot also be harnessed
for philosophical purposes. By ‘raising verbal ghosts’ – a metaphor we find in Plato’s own work at Sophist 234c – the philosopher is able to descend into the realm of the literary past in order to wield the power of poetry for his present philosophical needs.


Any questions? please email catabasis dot warwick2017 at gmail dot com