edited by Sylva Fischerová and Jirí Starý
translated by Katerina Šebková, Andrew Hauner, Sylva Fischerová, Nada Abdallaová, Matthew Sweney and Daniel Esparza
Karolinum Press, 2023
Paper: 978-80-246-5472-0 | eISBN: 978-80-246-5484-3

This book blurs the line between high and low culture throughout literary history.

The common story in literary studies is that the emergence of popular and junk literature is related to the emergence of modern society due to the rise of literacy and the shortening of workdays. Ancient Weeds upends this misconception by demonstrating that antiquity had its fair share of literary pieces that fit the definition of popular, trivial, and junk literature. The authors analyze artifacts such as the ancient Egyptian Turin Papyrus, ancient love novels, Christian hagiographies and passion plays, lives of Jesus and Marian hymns, Byzantine parodies of liturgical procedure, Old Norse tales and lying sagas, Arabic maqams, and Spanish blind romances. Through numerous excerpts, it becomes clear that the line between junk and high literature is thinner than it seems. They reveal how seemingly low themes such as sex and violence often overlap with the themes of high literature. In many cases, low literature is more imaginative and subversive than canonical texts, and bizarreness and non-conformity do not necessarily equate to the ephemerality of a work. As Ancient Weeds shows, thousands of years after it was written, low literature can still be a great source of entertainment today.

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