Eros the Bittersweet

Eros the Bittersweet

by Anne Carson

A book about love as seen by the ancients, Eros is Anne Carson's exploration of the concept of "eros" in both classical philosophy and literature.

Beginning with: "It was Sappho who first called eros 'bittersweet.' No one who has been in love disputes her.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Poetry
  • Rating: 4.45
  • Pages: 189
  • Publish Date: March 1st 1998 by Dalkey Archive Press
  • Isbn10: 1564781887
  • Isbn13: 9781564781888

Read the Book "Eros the Bittersweet" Online

In one of her chapters Anne Carson writes, "Imagine a city where there is no desire. One of my favorites is from Archilochos who wrote what "it feels like to be violated by Eros: Such a longing for love, rolling itself up under my heart, poured down much mist over my eyes, filching out of my chest the soft lungs-- Carson's analysis of this fragment is mind-opening for those readers who appreciate close reading.

Summoning her impressive knowledge of Greek drama, prose (both philosophic and fictional) and poetry, Carson conjures a daring argument about the symbiotic and triangular connections between words on a page, their writer and their reader, with the notion of desire as the Spanish Fly that keeps all the sweaty limbs and soiled sheets intertwined and sticky.

A sample from a favorite passage: "The English word 'symbol' is the Greek word symbolon which means, in the ancient world, one half of a knucklebone carried as a token of identity to someone who has the other half. Every hunting, hungering lover is half a knucklebone, wooer of a meaning that is inseparable from its absence.

We speculated about writers' purposes (to seduce readers?) and we are finally led to suspect that what the reader wants from reading and what the lover wants from love are experiences of very similar design.

The Greek alphabet revolutionized this imitative function through introduction of its consonant, which is a theoretic element, an abstraction. The consonant functions by means of an act of imagination in the mind of the user.

Such questions are certainly important, but ultimately feel somewhat beside the point insofar as the response always seems to be a quiet but unapologetic "it is, and." I found it curious yet unsurprising that Eros, Carson's first published text, is so preoccupied with paradox and "in-between" spaces in general: now some thirty+ years on it's clear that is exactly the place where she has situated her own work. If I wanted a scholarly analysis of Sappho, of The Phaedrus, Greek culture, or any other of the countless topics Carson alights upon throughout Eros I'm sure I could find one, two, or many more more carefully researched, argued, and meticulously footnoted.

I have to admit, I read this book because oh-so-literary characters on "The L Word" dropped the name while flirting.

And yet they are making the same type of universal claim. The evidence for this kind of thing is never sufficient to support the vastness of the claim being made. And yet somehow we are meant to admire it as a kind of performance in itself, and to set aside our doubts and to believe based on the facility of that performance, evidence becoming and old-fashioned and largely irrelevant afterthought. In these arguments, culture is a homogenous and monolithic THING, to which we have access via all and each of its productions, rather than a tension of similarity and difference, including its own variants and disputes, which needs much more care and information to be described accurately. Either way, the evidence comes after the conclusion, and the author is not to be trusted.

Carson (with background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art) blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. Her awards and honors include the Lannan Award, the Pushcart Prize, the Griffin Trust Award for Excellence in Poetry, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship.