Babylon Under Western Eyes: A Study of Allusion and Myth

Babylon Under Western Eyes: A Study of Allusion and Myth

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By Andrew Scheil
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
360 Pages 16 Images
ISBN 9781442637337
Published Apr 2016
Online discount: 25%
 $75.00    $56.25
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442625136
Published May 2016
Online discount: 25%
Full purchase $75.00

Babylon under Western Eyes examines the mythic legacy of ancient Babylon, the Near Eastern city which has served western culture as a metaphor for power, luxury, and exotic magnificence for more than two thousand years.

Sifting through the many references to Babylon in biblical, classical, medieval, and modern texts, Andrew Scheil uses Babylon’s remarkable literary ubiquity as the foundation for a thorough analysis of the dynamics of adaptation and allusion in western literature. Touching on everything from Old English poetry to the contemporary apocalyptic fiction of the “Left Behind” series, Scheil outlines how medieval Christian society and its cultural successors have adopted Babylon as a political metaphor, a degenerate archetype, and a place associated with the sublime.

Combining remarkable erudition with a clear and accessible style, Babylon under Western Eyes is the first comprehensive examination of Babylon’s significance within the pantheon of western literature and a testimonial to the continuing influence of biblical, classical, and medieval paradigms in modern culture.

Andrew Scheil is the Donald V. Hawkins Associate Professor of English at the University of Minnesota.


Part I: Babylon as Political Metaphor

Chapter One: The Political Image of Babylon in Antiquity

Chapter Two: Political Babylon in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages

Chapter Three: Political Babylon from the Great Schism to the Present

Part II: Babylon as Degenerate Archetype

Chapter Four: The Medieval Genealogy of Babylonian Degeneracy: The Cursed Race

Chapter Five: The Post-Medieval Genealogy of Babylonian Degeneracy and the Cursed Race Archetype

Part III: Babylon as Sublime Topos

Chapter Six: City of Ruins

Chapter Seven: Babylon and the Coordinates of Romance


"In its powerful combination of philological learning and cultural interpretation, Babylon under Western Eyes: A Study of Allusion and Myth at its best calls to mind the critical essays of Erich Auerbach. Scheil surveys the imaginative reception of Babylon from ancient Hebrew and Greek texts to recent pulp fiction and campy film. A special prominence is given to the Middle Ages, which harmonized the discordant strands inherited from the classical world. In turn the Middle Ages bequeathed a flexible set of concepts that continue to inform the way we think about the pastness of history, degeneracy, ruin, and other themes associated with Babylon."

Daniel Donoghue, John P. Marquand Professor of English, Harvard University

"Babylon under Western Eyes is educational in the best sense of the word. Andrew Scheil's book includes a vast range of literature, medieval, ancient, and modern, ranging from Herodotus to the contemporary genres of science fiction and fantasy."

Haruko Momma, Department of English, New York University

"An engaging and ambitious study marked by its author's singular intelligence and deep learning, Babylon under Western Eyes knits together into a compelling and coherent narrative many of the different strands of a myth that has been woven into the fabric of Western culture for almost as long as it has existed."

Mark Amodio, Department of English, Vassar College

‘Scheil has done a tremendous job of winnowing a near-endless supply of material down to essential cultural grains… An ambitious, often challenging, and almost always entertaining and engaging monograph.’

Jay Rubenstein, The Medieval Review, December 2016

‘A superb work of multidisciplinary scholarship, Scheil’s study will be of interest in a variety of academic disciplines, as it masterfully weaves together textual and historical analysis… Highly recommended.’

M.Roberts, Choice, vol 54:03:2016