Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture: The Backward Gaze examines a series of twentieth and twenty-first century fictional works that adapt Greco-Roman myths of the catabasis, the heroic journey to the underworld. Covering a range of genres - including novels, comics, and children's culture, by authors such as Elena Ferrante, Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, A. S. Byatt, Toni Morrison, and Anne Patchett - it reveals how an enduring fascination with
life after death, and fantasies of accessing the world of the dead while we are still alive, manifest themselves in myriad and varied re-imaginings of the ancient descent myth. The volume begins with a detailed overview of the use of the myth by ancient authors such as Homer, Aristophanes, Vergil, and Ovid, before exploring the ways in which the narrative of a return trip to Hades by Odysseus, Aeneas, Orpheus, and Persephone can be manipulated by contemporary storytellers to fit themes of social marginality and alterity, postmodern rebellion, the position of female authors in the literary canon, and the dislocation endured by refugees, exiles, and diasporic populations. It also argues that citations of classical underworld stories can disrupt and challenge the literary canon by using media - such as comic books, children's culture, or rock music - not conventionally associated with high culture.
as new hb