The Universe, the Gods, and Men by Jean-Pierre Vernant
Ancient Greek Myths Told by Jean-Pierre Vernant

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In this enchanting retelling of Greek myth, Jean-Pierre Vernant combines his deep knowledge of the subject with an original storytelling style. Beginning with the creation of Earth out of Chaos, Vernant continues with the castration of Uranus, the war between the Titans and the Olympian gods, the wily ruses of Prometheus and Zeus, and the creation of Pandora, the first woman. His narrative takes readers from the Trojan War to the voyage of Odysseus, from the story of Dionysus to the terrible destiny of Oedipus to Perseus's confrontation with the Gorgons.

Jean-Pierre Vernant has devoted himself to the study of Greek mythology. In recounting these tales, he unravels for us their multiple meanings and brings to life the beloved figures of legend whose narratives lie at the origin of our civilization. With remarkable psychological acuity, Vernant presents a picture of the world as the Greeks understood it. The relationship between the human and the divine -- realms that have always been intimately connected -- and their place within a world of potent natural forces are evoked effortlessly in a narrative that retains the magical quality of myth and reads with the compelling momentum of a good novel.


About Jean-Pierre Vernant

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Jean-Pierre Vernant is a leading French scholar of ancient Greece who attempts to elucidate Greek religions, especially mythology, through the development of a historical anthropology. In 1984 he retired from his position as professor of the comparative study of ancient religion at the College de France. Among his earlier accomplishments, Vernant received the Croix de Guerre and the Croix de la Liberation for his service in the French army in World War II; he was also made an officer in the French Legion of Honor. Vernant is a writer of essays more than of books. As anthropologist James Redfield (see Vol. 3) puts it, "His forte . . . has been the informal, slightly rambling essay. . .; he does not collect evidence in order to make a case but rather cites the material in order to illustrate his ideas."Vernant's career has been distinguished by his collaboration with other scholars, most notably with Marcel Detienne and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. His interest in applying anthropological study to ancient Greece derives from his teacher, Louis Gernet, a member of Emile Durkheim's (see Vol. 3) school of L'Annee Sociologique. Vernant also adapts ideas from structuralist anthropology, without, however, surrendering a historical perspective. He works most often on materials from Greece of the fifth century b.c. Classicists often resist Vernant's approach because it is so heavily informed by theory. Nevertheless, it provides a wonderfully rich and complex vision of the ancient world and is worth serious and prolonged consideration. Linda Asher, a former fiction editor for "The New Yorker" has translated into English many French-language writers, including Restif de la Bretonne, Victor Hugo, George Simenon & Milan Kundera.
Published September 4, 2001 by Harper. 224 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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Yet, these are more than simple retellings of the great Greek myths: Vernant interprets the stories as he narrates them, creating a context for the myths within the broader Greek culture that created them, and providing helpful critical insights into the purpose of myth.

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