Archaeology seems to be on the margins of cultural history, the province of antiquarians. In her fascinating Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism, though, Cathy Gere traces the impact of Arthur Evans’ excavation and reconstruction of Minoan civilization on modernists from Nietzsche to Freud, Joyce to Robert Graves. Evans convinced his readers that a matriarchal, pacifist, myth-based society was the foundation of Western civilization, the golden age before the fall into Homeric brutality. It wasn’t true, but it was highly attractive to “his war-torn age”: “Minoan society reconstructed as Western civilization’s earliest blossoming, a gilded infancy suckled by a benevolent mother goddess, a time of peace and plenty on a beautiful island protected by the sea.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, June 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm
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