880: Greek Classics by Mary Ellen Snodgrass

by Gerard

880.8: Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Greek Classics. Lincoln, NE: Cliffs Notes, Inc., 1988. 389 pp. ISBN 0-8220-0566-2.

Dewey Construction:

  • 800: Literature
  • 880: Literatures of classical Greek and Hellenic languages
  • 880.8: Collections of classical Greek literature

I wish I had a more profound and glorious book to review for my 100th post, but since I have a pattern going here, it’s just a hum-drum collection of classical Greek literature. Seven more to go before I have officially read one book in every Dewey division.

You may have noticed that I did the same thing here that I did with 870, i.e., read a condensed version of classical literature of a certain culture. That’s because the only to get a pure 880 is to find a collection classical Greek literature, most of which are several volumes long. I don’t have that kind of time (or that kind of patience). Back in the day, men of stature and learning would study volumes of works by the great Greek and Roman authors, hoping to incorporate some of their past lessons into their lives. And I expect to do some of the same, but that’ll have to wait until I get deeper into this division.

Mary Ellen Snodgrass’s Greek Classics explores the main writers of classical Greece, from Homer and Hesiod to Aesop and Sappho and Aristotle, and the general approach one should take to the various forms of classical literature. She does a very good job of breaking down the components of classical Greek theater so that readers can get a sense of the audience, the players, and the staging and how they interacted to form the basis for Greek cultural thought. I did seem strange to me that a Cliffs Notes book would include poets (since many poems aren’t that long to read), but the context into which each poet is placed is key for many of the texts.

Reading this book takes just as much time as reading a single original work contained therein, so if you’re just trying to get the outline of a particular piece, then take the time to read it properly. But, if you want a quick overview of the entire field, it’s not a bad way to go. I have a few of the authors in this book slated for other sections in this division, so it helped me a bit to get to know them before diving right in.