Sensations of agony and ecstasy while indexing a book about ancient Greek heroes
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2015.10.01. "Sensations of agony and ecstasy while indexing a book about ancient Greek heroes." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractAuthors who opt to write their own general index for their own book are conventionally instructed to concentrate on those things that their readers will want to look up in the book. Having just finished writing such an index for a second edition (2020) of my book The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, the first edition for which (2013) had only an index locorum, I can report mixed feelings as I come away from my experience. I am reminded here of the painting “The Scribe,” by Arthur Szyk (1927), as shown in the main illustration for this posting. Like that scribe, whom we see in the act of writing “his” message while surrounded by a world of stories told in a dazzling variety of images, I as the writer of an index for a general book about Greek heroes and their gods feel comparably dazzled by their own stories as told in both words and images stemming from their distant past. My feelings in this case could be described as intermittent sensations of agony mixed with ecstasy as I relived a veritable lifetime of thinking about these heroes and their gods. The agony had to do with choosing which words and terms and names I could include or exclude as entries in the index. Each entry I included had to be in some way relevant to my overall thinking. But here is where I found also the ecstasy, since each included entry had its own story to tell—and tell it all over again. Or, I should really say stories, not one story. A radiant example, as we will see, is the case of the god Zeus—and all the various stories about his interactions with heroes and with their other gods. These stories had not only shaped my thinking for the book: they are still there now, ready to shape the reader’s own thinking, independently of anything written by the worrying scribe of this essay.
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