- Series: Philosophy & Religion
- Paperback: 1088 pages
- Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 6 edition (April 11, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0073407526
- ISBN-13: 978-0073407524
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Classical Mythology: Images and Insights (Philosophy & Religion) 6th Edition
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About the Author
Gloria Platzner teaches in the English and Humanities programs at California State University, Sacramento, including courses on Classical Mythology and World Mythology.
Stephen L. Harris is Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Religious Studies at California State University, Sacramento, where he served ten years as department chair. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. A member of the Society of Biblical Literature, his publications include Understanding the Bible (8th edition, 2011); The Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (with Robert Platzner); Classical Mythology: Images and Insights (with Gloria Platzner); Exploring the Bible; and Fire Mountains of the West: The Cascade and Mono Lake Volcanoes, a survey of volcanic hazards on the U.S. Pacific Coast; and for National Geographic Books, Restless Earth, a study of global earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. He contributed the chapter on “Archaeology and Volcanism” to the Encyclopedia of Volcanoes (Academic Press, 2000).
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Top Customer Reviews
However, I've decided NOT to use this as a textbbook for my introductory college level course, for a couple of reasons:
1) The organization: not infrequently myths are mentioned briefly in relation to something else before they are fully covered in their own right--a problem, I would think, for beginners. The book is arranged thematically--gods, male and female heroes, the view of after life, world in decline--rather than in a more straightforward myth-telling scheme (as in Barry Powell's book). All of this is quite interesting to someone who has a mid-level understanding of mythology, but I think it makes it a little harder for initiates to grasp the basic myths and their variants.
2) Practical usage: in some senses maddening. For example, simple chapter numerals at the top of each page would be incredibly helpful so that when the text refers to another chapter (which it does continually--because of the way the material is organized) you could find that particular chapter instead of having to rifle through the pages. Then there is the seemingly arbitrary way in which some names and terms are included in the glossary and some are not. Why? Even more arbitrary--and irritating!--is the decision to give helpful pronunciation guides to some terms but not others. Why Minos, for instance, but not moirae; or Aurora (really) but not Anaxagoras (where does the accent go?). Also, a more useful map would help.
But ultimtely, this book is beautiful and richly written--I enjoyed it immensely; furthermore, it offers solid insights into the ways myths might have developed (though Ken Dowden's book is more convincing) and the ways we interpret them today. The authors make quite clear the existence of variants for many if not most myths--which reflects the true complexity of classical mythology. And finally, the visuals are gorgeous, both the 4-color plates and the black & white photos.
As a child, I used to read about the myths of Rome and Greece in the same light that I read fairytales. For a long time, although I knew much more about Greece and Rome than the average person, it wasn't until I started reading this book that I began to look at these myths as more than just entertaining "stories."
The secondary text (nicely supported by selections of well-known and obscure primary texts) highlight the fact that these were true beliefs and religion in their time.
Even better, the text branches out and provides commentary on mythology from a wide variety of cultures besides Greece and Rome, which helps to illuminate parrallels and points of diversion in the history of man and religion.
Cultural insights help point out the societal factors that created the gods, monsters and myths. Imagine reading that Medusa's phallic-like snake-hair and her beheading may have been a representation of unconscious male fears about castration!
Or having the striking similarities between the wild, wine god, Dionysus set up in blatant comparison to the life and works of Jesus Christ.
While much of the text is the opinion of the authors and one would do well to remember that you don't HAVE to accept every one of their interpretations, this text does a good job of showing the human, psychological side to mythology.
UPDATE: I adored this book! I got it for a class, and strongly considered buying it after spending a month with it (it was a winter class, so the semester was only about a month long). It provides analysis of specific Greek myths (for example, the stories of Hercules) from multiple perspectives, as well as Greek myths in general. The book is very informative and well-structured. It also contains various excerpts, and includes discussion of several if not all of the excerpts, so you can read the myth as well as an explanation/analysis of it. I'm very pleased with this rental.