Books of the month

Popular Culture in the Ancient World (edited by Lucy Grig, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, x+369 pages, US$ 110), is the first book to offer an interdisciplinary study of the subject. In this book a group of scholars from various countries faces a fascinating array of subjects and objects: from oracles to dress, from toys to theological speculation. After a substantive introduction, the book moves from classical Greece to the Roman Empire to Late Antiquity. The book goes beyond the 'bread and circuses' view of ancient popular culture and shows, instead, all its richness and diversity.


In Fábulas, seguidas do Romance de Esopo, a book published by Editora 34 (São Paulo, 2017, 280 pages, R$ 55), André Malta and Adriane da Silva Duarte combine two works translated from ancient Greek: a collection of 75 Aesop's fables and his romanticised biography. While the fables refer to a popular morality dating back to archaic and classical Greece, the Life of Aesop, written in the second century CE, already under the Roman Empire, puts on the scene, in an entertaining narrative, a slave of farming, promoted to domestic slave of a philosopher and who gains freedom thanks to his cunning and the use of the word in public. Unlike most ancient literary texts, Aesop's fables and the Life of Aesop allow us to glimpse some of the voices, life and culture of subalterns in antiquity.


In Narrativa e cultura popular no cristianismo primitivo (São Paulo, Paulus, 2018, 152 pages, R$ 29), Paulo Nogueira invites the reader to enter the universe of the first Christians through an exercise of estrangement, analysing their forms of literary expression. Starting from the hypothesis that early Christianity has deep connections with the popular culture of the ancient Mediterranean, the author explores three levels in which popular themes and ways of narrating are developed in the narratives known as Acts of Paul, Acts of John and Acts of Philip. Moving between folklore and orality, the monstrous and the grotesque, these narratives open doors to think Early Christianity in its own context and not only in terms of its future.


In Slave Theater in the Roman Republic: Plautus and Popular Comedy (Cambridge University Press, 2017, xvi + 563 pages, US$ 37.99) Amy Richlin proposes a radical reinterpretation of the Plautine theatre (3rd century BC) as a genre written by and for slaves and the poor. In the first part, the author shows how actors joked about the concerns of this audience (natal alienation, beatings, sexual abuse, hunger and poverty). In the second part, she catalogues the theatrical expressions of subaltern aspirations (such as the desire for revenge, honor, freedom, manumission and escape). Controversial and provocative, the book is nevertheless a significant contribution to the studies on the theatre of Plautus and the culture of slaves and poor in the Roman Republic.


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