Cover: Descent and Return: The Orphic Theme in Modern Literature, from Harvard University PressCover: Descent and Return in E-DITION

Descent and Return

The Orphic Theme in Modern Literature

Available from De Gruyter »

Product Details


$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674436374

Publication Date: 01/01/1971

287 pages


Related Subjects

Harvard University Press has partnered with De Gruyter to make available for sale worldwide virtually all in-copyright HUP books that had become unavailable since their original publication. The 2,800 titles in the “e-ditions” program can be purchased individually as PDF eBooks or as hardcover reprint (“print-on-demand”) editions via the “Available from De Gruyter” link above. They are also available to institutions in ten separate subject-area packages that reflect the entire spectrum of the Press’s catalog. More about the E-ditions Program »

Romantic, symbolist, and more recent French and German literature have revitalized the Orphic myth, transmuting Orpheus into a figure embodying post-Enlightenment culture. Tracing Orpheus’ metamorphosis from Novalis and Nerval through Mallarmé and Rilke to the contemporary period, Walter Strauss argues that the myth continues to be relevant because it can represent the most intense desires and fears of the twentieth century. In the emphasis on Orpheus’ divine and harmonizing poetical and musical powers, the author sees a challenge to a Western value system that has little concern for the gentle and civilizing arts. Orpheus becomes a symbol for refusal and withdrawal, but retains the capacity for regeneration. The author focuses on the modern epoch’s use of the descent into Hades motif as archetypal of the modern preoccupation with confrontation, self-knowledge, the unconscious, death, and nothingness.

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket: What Stars Are Made Of: The Life of Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, by Donovan Moore, from Harvard University Press

The Most Famous Astronomer You’ve Never Heard Of

Despite her pioneering contributions to science, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin has not always been recognized as one of the most influential scientists of the twentieth century. In What Stars Are Made Of, Donovan Moore sets out to change this, with the first full biography of this trailblazing scientist. To celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we are pleased to highlight five

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library ( extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.