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The Wooden Horse: The Liberation of the Western Mind, from Odysseus to Socrates Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 6, 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

How did Homer's marvelous epics, the great Greek tragedies and early Greek philosophy introduce the birth of consciousness and record its development? Through tiresome and pedestrian readings of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the plays of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides, Danish literary critic Zeruneith attempts to answer these questions. He concludes rather simplistically that Homer's account of Odysseus' use of the wooden horse to win the Trojan War demonstrates the use of strategic reason, rather than brute physical force, and the development of a focus on the inner life rather than the body. Later Greek writers develop Homer's insights about Odysseus' mind through poetry (Sappho) and tragedy (Sophocles and others). According to Zeruneith, the turn inward develops most fully in the philosophy of Empedocles, Pythagoras and the Pre-Socratics, culminating in Socrates' singular focus on reason as the definitive virtue. On balance, Zeruneith offers tired insights about Greek literature, and his thinly spun argument loses its way in his torturous retellings of the stories. (Sept.)
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"A sweeping, accessible inquiry into what the makers of classical Greek literature were thinking about... Unlike many others, Zeruneith reads the original Greek sources and can make sense of etymologies; like them, though, he works from the anthropologically problematic assumption that it is possible to `read' another culture across not just space but time. The premise may be faulty--or it may not be--but the author's view that the Greeks had the same concerns as ours and that their literature was made up of `concrete interpretations of experience' has the virtue of making, say, Euripides' worries about reason's slide into `the chaos of the unleashed instinctual world' more comprehensible, the tale of Prometheus as a peacemaker punished for breaking the cycle of violence that much more affecting. Zeruneith pays attention to the smaller concerns of classical scholarship: the meaning of dolos, mtis and at; the structure of tragedy as trilogy; the parallel crises (in the Greek sense) that drive The Iliad. But he also works larger themes, such as the development of Greek thought from the Ionian epic to the comparatively modern works of Aristophanes and Plato--in the second of which we, to follow Zeruneith, must wonder just what those voices Socrates heard in his head were. A readable, vigorous survey--if a touch overlong--of a piece with modern works of classical scholarship such as Roberto Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1993) and Anne Carson's Eros the Bittersweet (1986)." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Odysseus is the central figure in the bold story that Keld Zeruneith tells about Greek poetry and the development of Greek thought, tracing he growth of a new `structure of consciousness,' still meaningful for modern society. This is an extraordinary book: intense, imaginative, highly idiosyncratic, and written with great warmth and energy. -- P. E. Easterling, Regius Professor of Greek, University of Cambridge

"Ranging from Greek myth and religion to Greek poetry, drama, and philosophy, The Wooden Horse reminds one, in its breadth of scholarship, of the groundbreaking work of Hellenists such as Bruno Snell and E. R. Dodds and, in its deft deployment of Jungian insights, of the writings of Erich Neumann and James Hillman. Like an archaeologist of the mind, Keld Zeruneith has unearthed significant fragments of archaic and classical Greek culture and then reassembled them to form an image of the primal structures of Western consciousness." -- Christopher Collins, Professor, New York University

"The Wooden Horse is a most inventive and profound exploration of ancient Greek mythmaking. I admire all the learning and creativity that went into this ambitious book." -- Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Hardcover (September 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158567818X
  • ASIN: B007K5GQYW
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,329,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Bruce Oksol VINE VOICE on April 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For all of us who cannot get enough of the "Iliad" and/or the "Odyssey," this is an unbelievable treasure. The book provides an encyclopedic and intellectual study of the development of Western civilization as advanced by "Homer," through 562 pages of text, 30 pages of outstanding notes, and 6 full pages of bibliography. This author's audience must have been graduate students and scholars of Homer, but even armchair amateurs with a modicum of understanding and familiarity of these two epic poems will enjoy the book. It's one of those books, where after reading the first two chapters, you want to start over. You realize you have missed much the first time. The author does a great job reinforcing what he has written earlier without getting boring or tedious. Although I associate Harold Bloom with the Shakespearian scholars, I would be very curious to know what Bloom thinks about this book. I remain perplexed why Bloom did not include a chapter or section devoted to Homer in his "Western Canon," or in "Genius."

This is too much for a college/graduate student to read during the school year. This is an outstanding book to be read through the summer, in preparation for school courses.

The author says that the chapters stand-alone and the reader can pick and choose the chapters that interest him or her most. Obviously, it's important to read the foreword and the first chapter first, but after that one can skip around. I would also suggest the first note which takes up almost a full 2 1/2 pages, and titled, "The Wooden Horse: The Myth of Discursivity." (Discursivity: Proceeding to a conclusion through reason rather than intuition.)

Perhaps what I enjoyed most is the fact that the author remains perplexed how such great works, the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" could emerge from "the darkness of history...it will remain a mystery. The mystery bears the name of Homer."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In short - I have rarely read a more thought-provoking and, at the same time, discussion-ending book. I cannot remember a more intelligent and impressive intellectual journey. If you are a fan of Homer this is a must.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most sweeping,in depth and insightful study on the primordial psychology, and the development of consciousness that has permeated the civilization of the Greeks, conducted through a remarkable comparison between the Iliad, the Odyssey and the Works and Days of Hesiod; where Odysseus is the paradigm in the evolution of thought and the relationships between humanity, politics and religion. A fantastic read for those who are passionate about the classics of our civilization.
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Format: Hardcover
The Wooden Horse provides a literary exegesis that teaches much about the Ancient Greek texts it discusses. Although the author picks and chooses his evidence from the vast store of the Ancient classics, while ignoring any that would contradict his thesis, and asserts an overarching cohesiveness to the genre that is unlikely to exist, given the vast number of years over which they were written, their several authors, and the several versions of the stories, his thesis still provides a brilliant beam of enlightenment. The close readings of several of the texts by Zeruneith is particularly rewarding; especially his analyses of the contrasting characters of Odysseus and Achilles in both The Iliad and The Odyssey.
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