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Sacrifice and Modern Thought$
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Julia Meszaros and Johannes Zachhuber

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199659289

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199659289.001.0001

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Human Sacrifice and the Literary Imagination 1

Human Sacrifice and the Literary Imagination 1

(p.231) 15 Human Sacrifice and the Literary Imagination1
Sacrifice and Modern Thought

Derek Hughes

Oxford University Press

This chapter studies the persistence of ritual human sacrifice as a topic in European literature, from its appearances in the Iliad and Greek tragedy to the present day. It discusses ways in which early modern authors responded to the sacrificial cultures of the Aztecs and Peruvians and traces the changing adaptations of Greek works concerned with human sacrifice, as optimistic adaptations of Euripides’ Iphigenia plays in the eighteenth century were succeeded by increasingly dark adaptations of the Bacchae in the twentieth. The imaginative appeal of human sacrifice to cultures which do not practice it is striking: witness Wagner’s preoccupation with female self-immolation. In part, this appeal is made possible by constant changes in the understanding and definition of sacrifice itself. The chapter considers such changes, and the ways in which they reflect the writers’ social and cultural ambience.

Keywords:   human sacrifice, Greek tragedy, Euripides, Iphigenia, The Bacchae, Wagner

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