Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism by Cathy GereKnossos and the Prophets of Modernism by Cathy Gere

Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism

byCathy Gere

Paperback | April 30, 2011

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In the spring of 1900, British archaeologist Arthur Evans began to excavate the palace of Knossos on Crete, bringing ancient Greek legends to life just as a new century dawned amid far-reaching questions about human history, art, and culture. With Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism, Cathy Gere relates the fascinating story of Evans’s excavation and its long-term effects on Western culture. After the World War I left the Enlightenment dream in tatters, the lost paradise that Evans offered in the concrete labyrinth—pacifist and matriarchal, pagan and cosmic—seemed to offer a new way forward for writers, artists, and thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, James Joyce, Giorgio de Chirico, Robert Graves, and Hilda Doolittle. 

Assembling a brilliant, talented, and eccentric cast at a moment of tremendous intellectual vitality and wrenching change, Cathy Gere paints an unforgettable portrait of the age of concrete and the birth of modernism.

Cathy Gere is assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of The Tomb of Agamemnon.
Title:Knossos and the Prophets of ModernismFormat:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:April 30, 2011Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226289540

ISBN - 13:9780226289540

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Bad Judgement on my Part – Resulting in Disappointment As an ancient history buff with a penchant for Ancient Greece, I hoped to glean from this book some new information on the Minoan Civilization. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed against the modern reinforced concrete walls of Knossos. I should have heeded the author’s warning in the book’s introduction: “The aim of this book is the opposite of archaeological. Instead of searching beneath the modern reconstructions in pursuit of the limestone and gypsum temples built by the people of the Bronze Age, the present narrative attempts to understand the temple builders of the age of concrete – the archaeologists, architects, artists, classicists, writers, and poets of the twentieth century A.D. who reconstructed Minoan Crete in modernist materials.” (page 5) As a result, I did not learn much about the Ancient Minoans but, more importantly, most of the author’s professional analyses of various people’s musings on diverse topics, in view of the evolving socio-political climate of the times, were over my head. However, I did learn a lot (way too much) about Nietzsche, Doolittle, Freud, Graves, Picasso, Joyce and a host of other poets, artists, writers and philosophers some of whom I had never heard of and others whose works I was never really interested in. Then again, I did find some sections interesting: those on Schliemann’s and Evans’ archaeological discoveries, the military activities on Crete during the Second World War and the few paragraphs on modern interpretations of Minoan archaeology. I found the writing style to be very scholarly but often rather dry. Several sections seemed to me to be irrelevant while others I found difficult to understand; but occasionally I did find some sections to be quite captivating. Overall, notwithstanding the book’s actual focus (or foci), I still did not enjoy reading it as much as I had hoped, hence my rating. As for the intended audience, I would recommend that any potential readers ponder the above quotation before making any decisions about reading this book. I’m sure that there are many readers out there who would thoroughly enjoy it.
Date published: 2011-06-14

Table of Contents


I. The Birth of Tragedy, 1822-1897
An Archaeology of Heroes
A Prophecy of Tragedy
What Ariadne Is

II. Stand Up Tragedy, 1851-1899
The Dry Smell of Time
Eastern Questions
The Road to the Labyrinth
Greek Defeat
Reconstructing the Nation

III. Ariadne's Lament
Ariadne's Throne
The Great Cretan Mother
Ariadne's Dancing Floor
The Making of a Goddess
The Villa Ariadne
Cretan Victory
Ariadne in Chirico City

IV. The Concrete Labyrinth, 1914-1935
The Throne Room Complex
Captain of the Blacks
Court Ladies
Priest-King and Cowgirls
Lost Boys
The Lady of Sports
The Magic Ring
The Psyche Element
Little Souls

V. Psyche's Labyrinth, 1919-1949
Mythical Method
The Decline of Crete
Achilles' Shield
Freudian Archaeology
Psyche's Muse
Crete on the Couch
The Battle of Crete

VI. The Rebirth of Comedy, 1942-1949
Psyche Reborn
Paradise before Eve
Psyche Rewritten
The Consort
New Crete

VII. The Birth of Farce, 1950-2000
Romantic Revivals
The White Goddess
Black Athena
The Road Back to War



Editorial Reviews

"An excellent account. . . . Fascinating. . . . I am indebted."