Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Human sacrifice has fascinated Western writers since the beginnings of European literature. It is prominent in Greek epic and tragedy, and returned to haunt writers after the discovery of the Aztec mass sacrifices. It has been treated by some of the greatest creative geniuses, including Shakespeare and Wagner, and was a major topic in the works of many Modernists, such as D. H. Lawrence and Stravinsky. In literature, human sacrifice is often used to express a writer's reaction to the residue of barbarism in his own culture. The meaning attached to the theme therefore changes profoundly from one period to another, yet it remains as timely an image of cultural collapse as it did over two thousand years ago. Drawing on sources from literature and music, in this 2007 book Derek Hughes examines the representation of human sacrifice in Western culture from The Iliad to the invasion of Iraq.

• A study of the cultural meanings and representation of sacrifice from ancient times • Perspectives on literature, especially tragedy, and opera • Features close analyses of sacrifice from Shakespeare to Atwood and from Homer to Wagner
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages352
ISBN (Print)9780521867337
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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