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Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion [Paperback]

Jane Ellen Harrison
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 2 2010 1108010032 978-1108010030 Reissue
Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928) was a pioneer in the academic study of myth in its historical and archaeological context, and was also one of the first women to make a full-time career as an academic. In her introduction to this book (1903), making the point that 'Greek religion' was usually studied using the surviving literary retellings of myths and legends, she states: 'The first preliminary to any scientific understanding of Greek religion is a minute examination of its ritual'. Using the then emerging disciplines of anthropology and ethnology, she demonstrates that the specific mythological tales of the Greeks embody systems of belief or philosophy which are not unique to Greek civilisation but which are widespread among societies both 'primitive' and 'advanced'. Her work was enormously influential not only on subsequent scholars of Greek religion but in the wider fields of literature, anthropology and psychoanalysis.

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Book Description

Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928) was a pioneer in the academic study of myth. Using the then emerging disciplines of anthropology and ethnology, she demonstrates in this book (from 1903) that the mythological tales of the Greeks embody systems of belief which are widespread among societies both 'primitive' and 'advanced'.

From the Back Cover

"Harrison's Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion is a book that breathes life. It is an exciting, deeply felt intellectual quest, with a broad view of the role of religion in life, ancient and modern. Harrison is not afraid to look for relevance in archaic cult, and doesn't flinch on finding it. From a study of Greek anthropomorphism, she can conclude, like a seeress looking beyond the early twentieth century: 'to be human is not necessarily to be humane.'"--Richard Martin, Princeton University

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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IN characterizing the genius of the Greeks Mr Ruskin says: 'there is no dread in their hearts; pensiveness, amazement, often deepest grief and desolation, but terror never. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars the kind of thing you can't sum up easily Dec 28 2013
By Sarah
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book that needs your close attention; all of the meaning and significance in the concepts explored seems to unfold slowly over its course, and there are moments of awe and inspiration throughout it's entirety.
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Don't be fooled by the Look Inside feature--it leads you to a completely different edition, which is a photocopy. The General Books version was created by robot OCR, and very bad OCR, and OCR cannot handle quotations in Greek, Latin, etc., which this book is full of, making it utterly unintelligible. I am disappointed in both General Books for allowing this version to exist at all, and to Amazon.ca for their very misleading link.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Detailed Information Sept. 15 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I was searching for an answer to the mystery that was in the Greek Mysteries. Harrison provides the answers. Prolegomena provides a very detailed account of the Mysteries that are rooted in worship of the the Chthonic (Earth) Gods that preceded the Olympian deities. The reading level of this book is probably the most difficult I have ever experienced in a book that I am reading purely for pleasure. You must have a burning interest in the field of ancient Greek religion to be able to appreciate this book for the great work it is.
Jaime Gomez
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Classic March 3 2003
Format:Paperback
Although published in the early 1900s and outdated in certain areas, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion is still an essential read for anyone interested in Greek Religion. Perhaps the best description of the book would be to call it the Greek Golden Bough.
In this classic work, Harrison sought to uncover the primitive substratum of Greek religion, so rather than focusing on the
Olympian deities, she spends the better part of the book discussing ghosts, 'demons', and the chthonic deities. The religious landscape that she illuminates is therefore nothing like the cheery and rational world of the Olympians. The dark, the creepy and the uncanny tend to predominate.
The book is very well-written, and the author's fascination with her material is infectious. I found it so powerful a reading experience that I can only describe Prolegomena in terms of a kind of anthropological prose poetry. Although its ostensible topic is a rather specialized and obscure field of enquiry, one comes away from the book with a feeling of having gained a deeper insight into that most general of topics, the human condition.
I have to agree with the other reviewer who emphasizes that this is not a book for those completely unfamiliar with ancient Greek religion. Moreover, parts of it might be frustrating and tedious for readers without knowledge of the ancient Greek language, since Harrison is constantly engaged in the elucidiation and discussion of Greek religious terminology.
All in all, an unforgettable book that, unlike most academic studies, is a piece of great literature.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible classic Nov. 16 2002
Format:Paperback
This book is an indispensible classic for anybody interested in Greek religion. I was considering following up Prof. Harrison's weighty tome by writing the sequel: "Avgolemeno to the Study of Greek Soup Making," but I couldn't find an interested publisher, for some reason.
*Note: "Avgolemeno" is a well-known Greek, lemon-flavored soup.
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