Introducing the Ancient Greeks, from Bronze Age Seafarers to Navigators of the Western Mind, by Edith Hall, $16.95, 303 pages, ASIN #0393351165. Index, suggestions for further reading, b&w images sprinkled through text.
"Between 800 and 300 BC, people who spoke Greek made a rapid series of intellectual discoveries that propelled the Mediterranean world to a new level of civilization," writes author Edith Hall in the preface of her compelling new book. "This process of self-education was much admired by the Greeks and Romans of the centuries that followed. As this book explains, however, the history of the ancient Greeks began 800 years before this period of accelerated progress, and survived for at least seven centuries afterward. When the texts and artworks of classical Greece were rediscovered in the European Renaissance, they changed the world for a second time.
"The phenomenon has been called the Greek 'miracle,' as well as the 'glory' or 'wonder' that was Greece. Many books have been entitled The Greek Genius, The Greek Triumph, The Greek Enlightenment, the Greek Experiment, The Greek Idea, and even The Greek Ideal. But over the last two decades the notion that the Greeks were exceptional has been questioned.
"It has been stressed that the Greeks were, after all, just one of many ethnic and linguistic groups in the ancient Mediterranean world. Long before the Greeks appeared in the historical record, several complicated civilizations had arisen- the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, the Hattians and Hittites. Other peoples provided the Greeks with crucial technological advances; they learned the phoenetic alphabet from the Phoenicians and how to mint coins from the Lydians. they may have learned how to compose elaborate cult hymns from the Luwians. During the period when the Greeks invented rational philosophy and science, after 600 BC, their horizons were opened up by the expansion of the Persian Empire.
Author Edith Hall is one of Britain's foremost classicists, having held posts at the universities at Cambridge, Durham, Reading and Oxford. She has written or edited more than a dozen works.
Medieval Exegesis & Religious Difference -- Commentary, Conflict, and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean, Edited by Ryan Szpiech, Fordham UPress '15, $55, 329 pages, ASIN #0823264629. Index, contributors, bibliography, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
From the dust jacket:
"Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have a common belief in the sanctity of a core holy scripture, and commentary on scripture (exegesis) was at the heart of all three traditions in the Middle Ages. At the same time, because it dealt with issues such as the nature of the canon, the limits of acceptable interpretation, and the meaning of salvation history from the perspective of faith, exegesis was elaborated in the Middle Ages along the faultlines of interconfessional disputation and polemical conflict.
"This collection of 13 essays by world-renowned scholars of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam explores the nature of exegesis during the High and especially the Late Middle Ages as a discourse of cross-cultural and interreligious conflict, paying particular attention to the commentaries of scholars in the western and southern Mediterranean from Iberia and Italy to Morocco and Egypt."
Editor Ryan Szpiech is Associate Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He has written or edited numerous books and is currently editor-in-chief of the journal Medieval Encounters.
All That Followed -- A Novel by Gabriel Urza, Henry Holt '15, $25, 256 pages, ASIN #1627792430.
In a brief Q&A with the author, Gabriel Urza discusses the writing of his new book:
Q. You were born in the United States but come from Basque heritage. Did you always want to write in a Basque setting or about Basque culture?
A. I was initially very resistant to writing about the Basque Country; the political situation there is so complicated and divisive, but so much of my own experience and identity comes from my ties to the Basque Country and my experience there. As I was writing the book, I came across an interview with Tobias Wolff in The Paris Review, where Wolff says that 'The most radical political writing of all is that which makes you aware of the reality of another human being.'
'That line was really crucial for me -- it told me not to worry about trying to explain the complexities of a historical or political situation. Ultimately, I felt the freedom to write an early draft when I realized that it wasn't a political book, but rather a book about the individual characters -- the political identities and actions were dictated by the characters, rather than vice versa."
Q. All That Followed is based loosely on several political kidnappings and killings that occurred in the 1990s in the Basque Country. What kind of research did you do?
A. The most obvious parallels are to the assassination of Miguel Angel Blanco, a young politician who was killed near San Sebastian in 1997. I was 19 years old when I arrived in San Sebastian a week or two after Blanco's death, and the reaction to the killing was something I'll never forget -- massive protests all across Spain, daily rallies denouncing the killing but also in favor of Basque independence. I tried to incorporate my memories of this time into the novel, and read up on some newspaper reports from the Basque Country from that time."
Author Gabriel Urza, whose family is from the Basque region of Spain, received his MFA from the Ohio State University. His short fiction and essays have been published in numerous magazines and journals. He also has a degree in law from the University of Notre Damn and has spent several years as a public defender in Reno, NV.