I first met Lily Macrakis when she became Dean of Hellenic College in 2002; she was literally “a breath of fresh air.” In the years we worked together, I came to further appreciate her scholarship, and benefited enormously from her leadership. With her incredible ability to persevere against all kinds of administrative adversity, the “new Dean,” as she was referred to long after her inauguration, fostered an environment conducive to academic creativity and excellence. Her unique profile as tactician and strategist, along with her gift to connect with people and to connect people with their academic pursuits, taught me (and many others, I might add) a great deal about academia, life, and the importance of effective mentorship.
Historical Poetics in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Greece: Essays in Honor of Lily Macrakis celebrates the career of a distinguished scholar, accomplished teacher, inspiring mentor, and dear friend. Summarizing Lily Macrakis’s contributions to academia is a daunting task, not only because her career spans over five decades, but also because her presence in the world of scholarship extends beyond award-winning publications and long lists of grateful advisees. The study of modern Greek history, literature, and language throughout North America owes a great debt to the pioneering work of Lily Macrakis, who, as part of a small group of scholars, some of whom are contributing to this volume, nurtured the field of Modern Greek Studies into existence. Equally groundbreaking, to my mind, is her example as a woman scholar in the academia of the 1950s, and her profile as mentor to numerous students and fellow faculty.
I will only mention here that Lily Macrakis’s Eleftherios Venizelos 1864-1910: The Making of a National Leader, winner of the Academy of Athens Venizelos Biography Award (Ελευθέριος Βενιζέλος, 1864-1910: η διάπλαση ενός εθνικού ηγέτη, 1992), is now considered a milestone in modern Greek studies, that she was instrumental in founding the Modern Greek Studies Association in 1968, and that her educational philosophy has inspired hundreds of scholars all over the world. Far for attempting to complement Robin Fleming’s captivating biographical piece on Lily Macrakis, I would also like to underscore our honoranda’s contribution to modern Greek studies as conference chair and event organizer at the Modern Greek Studies Association, Regis College, and Hellenic College; in the words of one of the volume’s contributors, “participating in Lily’s conferences is a pure intellectual joy.” Captivated by her spirit, grateful for her kindness, and awed by her loyalty (not to mention her amazing taste in tea), her many students and friends find in her the perfect amalgamation of vividness and wisdom, action and contemplation, theory and practice.
The historical poetics of nineteenth and twentieth century Greece, a topic encompassing a variety of literary genres, was chosen as the volume’s central theme. Inextricably intertwined with the founding ideology of the modern Greek state, both timeframe and theme constitute an invitation to share in a discussion particularly significant to Lily Macrakis’s work. Historical poetics as a general topic is an age-old one. Already Aristotle in his Poetics draws analogies and points out differences between poetry and history (Poetics 1451a37-b7). Despite Lucian’s repeated warnings about the risk of confusing history and poetry (Quomodo historia conscribenda sit 8, 22, 38, 45), the two genres have maintained a dialogue derived from their shared interest in exploring chronologically distant realities. In Bakhtinian terms, this historical poetics designates the intersection between literature and history and indicates, in its simplest manifestation, an attempt to apply literary methods in order to investigate domains generally reserved for the discipline of history (Bakhtin 1981:84-258).
Further, the poiesis of history by literary or cultural means allows for a reformulation of the historiographical question, opening the floor to a polyphony of interdisciplinary discourses: anthropology, epistolography, canonical and non-canonical forms of literature, music, iconography, and theology participate in constructing the existential consciousness of the past. This wealth of genres and disciplines is fully represented in this volume, whose purpose is to honor the multifaceted work of an equally talented scholar. The articles are grouped in three parts: Eleftherios Venizelos, Crete, and the Making of National Legends, Historical Poetics and Modern Greece: A View from the Texts, and Cultural Politics in Modern Greece.
The volume opens and closes with Lily Macrakis’s favorite poems, both reprinted here by permission of the authors, to whom I am enormously grateful. “Voices from an Island,” by Marguerite Bouvard, was first published in 1985 as part of a poetry collection by the same title. “Drinking the sun of Corinth” (“Πίνοντας ἥλιο κορινθιακό”) by Odysseas Elytis was published in 1943 in the collection Sun the First (Ἥλιος ὁ πρῶτος. Ἀθήνα: Ἴκαρος); the English translation by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard appeared in 1981.
Robin Fleming’s contribution, The Making of Lily Macrakis, introduces the reader to Lily’s early years. At the same time, it recreates with engaging clarity the social background of twentieth century Greece. Through the story of a young scholar and her journey from Athens to Boston, Robin Fleming describes the academic landscape of the 1950s and 60s and the challenges it presented to women. Despite its challenges, however, this intellectual environment fostered Lily Macrakis’s gift for the humanities through opportunities such as the Radcliffe Institute fellowship, which she was awarded in 1961, and her appointment at Regis College, where she taught until 1998. Moreover, Robin Fleming paints with decisive paintbrush strokes and vivid colors the portrait of Lily Macrakis as we know and admire her, reflecting the spirit of our scholarly gift for her with perfect accuracy.
The first part of the present volume, Eleftherios Venizelos, Crete, and the Making of National Legends, introduces the reader to modern Greek historical poetics through Lily Macrakis’s main research interests, namely the life and career of eminent Greek revolutionary and statesman Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936).
Michael Herzfeld’s “The Poetics of Apotheosis: The Iconography of Venizelos in Crete” examines how Venizelos became “the iconic image of the manly Cretan leader who rose to national prominence.” By considering the phenomenon of Venizelos’s heroic apotheosis in the context of Byzantine iconography, as well as against the background of Cretan social poetics and Greek political history, Michael Herzfeld illustrates the “balance of stylistic savoir-faire and opportunistic adventurism” that characterized Venizelos’s early political career. He also demonstrates how this tension between convention and invention, also characteristic of traditional Cretan perceptions of accomplished manhood, enabled Venizelos to fashion a lasting political icon by negotiating the polarities between tradition and originality.
Though not a polarizing figure, at least ultimately, Venizelos seems to have generated ambivalent feelings in another illustrious Cretan, Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), as Peter Bien shows in his paper, “A Personal View of Eleftherios Venizelos from 1902 until 1933 as Recorded in Nikos Kazantzakis’s Selected Letters.” Through a series of sincere and personable letters conveying an intriguing variety of reactions towards Venizelos, Bien and Kazantzakis treat the reader to a comprehensive overview of Greek political history from 1902 to 1933. Ranging from endorsement to rejection, and “often resting in a ‘middling’ position,” Kazantzakis’s views exemplify the divergence of sentiments on the Venizelist cause expressed by Greeks both in Greece and abroad.
In “The Greek State and the Diaspora: Venizelism Abroad, 1910-1932,” Alexander Kitroeff delves into a study of these sentiments as they were made manifest among Greeks in Anatolia, Egypt, and the United States. Moreover, he surveys the attitudes of Venizelist governments towards the Greeks of the diaspora, showing how the latter’s uninterrupted involvement with the politics of the mother country disseminated Venizelism abroad. Kitroeff’s analysis encompasses the mechanisms of political support for Venizelos in Greece, also showing how Venizelos’s modernist administrative and foreign policies earned him the almost unanimous loyalty of the Greek diaspora.
Within (and perhaps despite) the framework of this almost unanimous loyalty, Diana Haas re-examines Cavafy’s views on Venizelos in “Cavafy, Venizelos and the National Schism: Revisiting a Debate.” Through a thorough review of contemporary evidence and the poet’s own work, including his self-comments, Haas dissects Cavafy’s equanimity in the face of omnipresent Venizelism, offering arguments for a parallel journey between the poet and the politician; her insightful reading of Cavafy’s poetry reveals the poet’s artfully concealed engagement with the political figure of Venizelos, dominant in both Athens and Alexandria, and with the Venizelist cause, which he never openly embraced.
The state-sponsored practice of embracing and banning musical instruments is examined in Panayotis League’s “Rewriting Unwritten History: Folklore, Nationalism, and the Ban of the Cretan Violin.” His article explores the dynamic interplay between myth and reality in the musical culture of Western Crete, how this malleable oral culture was exploited by Simon Karas, the pioneering folklorist and musicologist who engineered a mass media ban of Cretan music performed on the violin, in order to advance the lyra, and Kostas Papadakis, leader of the violinists of Hania in their struggle against the ban, to promote their competing mythologies; further, he discusses the extent to which the ban has both changed the musical landscape of Crete in the latter half of the twentieth century as well as paved the way for a rewriting of Cretan cultural, musical, and political history by means of ideologically produced folklore transmitted through mass media.
The second part of the volume, Historical Poetics and Modern Greece: A View from the Texts, consists of four contributions that focus on the contextualization, both thematic and historical, of the literary product.
In “History, Identity, and the Hero in Terzakis’s Princess Ysabeau,” Stamatia Dova examines the sensitive balance between literature and history in a historical novel. Her discussion of historical poetics incorporates the palindromic transfer of the theme of foreign occupation from the thirteenth to the twentieth century into the symbolism and characterization of the novel’s protagonists. Their identity, defined by competing notions of class and ethnicity, reflects the discourse on modern Greek heroic character and national heritage within the broader ideological context of Greece’s relationship with the West. Moreover, by revisiting Terzakis’s designation of Princess Ysabeau as “heroic novel,” Stamatia Dova sheds new light on the novel’s interchange with folk motifs, epic narrative technique, and performative conventions of oral poetry.
The relationship between literature and history is also at the center of Eleni Mahaira-Odoni’s “Historical Poetics in Modern Greece: Reflections on Three Writers.” Through a brief exploration of the work of two contemporary Greek fiction writers, Thanassis Valtinos and Rea Galanaki, she focuses on the limitations of the historical narrative, its enrichment by the creative genius of fiction, and the role of historical discourse in the production of a literary artifact. Furthermore, Mahaira-Odoni reviews C. P. Cavafy’s use of history “to speak for the poet’s emotions, memories and desires in the present” and offers new insights into some of his best-known work, including his 1917 poems “In the Month of Athyr” and “One of their Gods.”
Jennifer R. Kellogg’s “‘We’re paying off the variant of a fairy tale’: Seferis’s Historical Poetics” expands on poetry’s use of history by considering the fusion of historical narrative and traditional tales in the poetry of George Seferis. Her essay explores Seferis’s strategy “to create consolatory stories, or παραμύθια, out of the ancient past” in his effort to alleviate the pain caused by the Asia Minor Catastrophe, the Second World War, and his long exile. Kellogg’s reading of Seferis’s poetry, including “Last Stop,” “The Last Dance,” and “Helen,” illustrates the process of internalizing history by means of parables and folktales, through which the poet helps himself and his people to overcome trauma.
Overcoming the trauma of history through poetry is also a central theme in Kerstin Jentsch-Mancor’s “The Dialectics of Truth in the Poetry of Manolis Anagnostakis.” Her essay identifies in Anagnostakis’s poetics “an interpretive model for understanding and overcoming some of Greece’s most tragic historical events.” As Jentsch-Mancor shows, by refusing to give in to léthe (“oblivion”), the poet enters a dialectic of negation that enables him to attain truth (a-létheia) and deal with the trauma of the German occupation, the Civil War, and the military dictatorship of the junta. This “complete or absolute consciousness” constitutes the natural and actual result of philosophical pursuits of universal truth about reality in the context of a close dialogue between poetry and history.
The third part of this volume, entitled Cultural Politics in Modern Greece, contains articles on the cultural reworking of historical events and national identities.
Roderick Beaton’s “Literature and Nation: The ‘Imagined Community’ and the Role of Literature in the Making of Modern Greece” examines the importance of literary texts in “imagining” and subsequently shaping Greek national identity in the nineteenth century. His discussion of Solomos’s and Kalvos’s historical poetics brings forth their imaginatively selective use of Greek history, the resulting construct of the modern Greek nation’s direct descent from ancient Greece, and the ways this construct was challenged by nineteenth century Austrian historian Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer. Starting with the analysis of perceptions of Hellenism as formulated by Greek intellectuals in response to this challenge, Roderick Beaton outlines modern Greek historical poetics and its milestones, including the poetry of Palamas, Cavafy, Seferis, and Ritsos.
Nicolas Prevelakis offers a new dimension of historical poetics in “Theologies as Alternative National Histories: Christos Yannaras and John Romanides.” In addition to a summary of Orthodox doctrine, his article provides us with a thorough account of Neo-Orthodox constructs of Hellenism as articulated by twentieth century theologians John Romanides and Christos Yannaras. Their view of modern Greek identity as inherently antithetical to western concepts of community and nationhood projects Greek history in its entirety through a lens of relational validation that reflects Orthodox Trinitology. Thus, by interweaving theology and historiography, Yannaras and Romanides offer arguments for the continuity of Greek culture and solutions to “multiple tensions within modern Greek historiographical discourse.”
Paschalis Kitromilides’s “The Anonymity of a Prominent Woman in Eighteenth Century Cyprus” broadens the geographical and chronological scope of our volume while pondering the confines of feminine identity in mid-eighteenth century Larnaca. The hypothesis that the wife of Christofakis Konstantinou is anonymously depicted on the wall-paintings of the chapel of Saint George on the estate of Arpera, the reconstruction of which her wealthy husband had sponsored, is well supported by her (not signed by name) letters to his business associates upon his death. Paschalis Kitromilides combines visual and textual evidence not only to determine this woman’s identity but also to explicate the social poetics that kept her anonymous despite her social prominence.
Thanos Veremis concludes the section on cultural politics with his essay “Nationalism and Identity in the Balkans.” Following a streamlined exposition on the emergence of nationalism, Veremis discusses the role of tradition and culture in the early stages of the formation of national identity in Greece and the Balkans. His analysis considers the relationship between Orthodoxy and nationalism as well as the influence of the Enlightenment and the West on the establishment of the Balkan states. Further, Thanos Veremis examines twentieth and twenty-first century transnationalism, its antagonistic relationship with nineteenth century romantic nationalism, and its consequences for Balkan, European, and international politics.
Finally, I need to thank more people than I can possibly mention here. First and foremost I owe thanks to Gregory Nagy, whose scholarship and friendship over the years have been truly invaluable. I am also grateful to Leonard Muellner, Casey Dué Hackney, and Mary Ebbott for their kind invitation to publish this volume at the Classics@ series, and to Jill Curry Robbins and Noel Spencer, for their guidance during the intriguing process of an online publication. Marina Cheilitsi, Robin Fleming, Christos Giannopoulos, Matina Goga, Thodoris Karkoulis, Zoie Lafis, Panayotis League, Rhea Lesage, Cynthia Mellonas, Kenny Morrell, Nicolas Prevelakis, Nikki Stournaras, and Teresa Wu made a difference in my work at various stages of this publication. I am particularly indebted to the President of Hellenic College, Rev. Nicholas Triantafilou, and to the Board of Trustees of the Kallinikeion Foundation, for their enthusiastic and unstinting support of this project. Dean Demetrios S. Katos of Hellenic College embraced the effort and Nikolaos Poulopoulos provided collegial support and helpful feedback from beginning to end. Jeffrey P. Emanuel was absolutely instrumental in manuscript preparation; I am truly thankful for his acute proofreading and superb editorial assistance. Ambassador Monteagle Stearns kindly offered to preface this work, a cordial gesture that I appreciate as much as his insightful comments. It would be unfair not to mention here my husband, Apostolos Karafillis, and our daughter, Pavlina Karafillis, who share my admiration and affection for Lily Macrakis. And of course, I would like to thank my fellow contributors to this volume for their patience and commitment, and Lily, for her positive presence in my life for the last ten years.
Bakhtin, M. M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (ed. M. Holquist; trans. C. Emerson and M. Holquist). Austin.
Keeley, E. 1981. Odysseas Elytis: Selected Poems. 1940-79. London.