Daniel Mendelsohn’s essay about the Parthenon (and what the Parthenon “means”) in the April 14 issue of The New Yorker made a deft grab for my heart. Ever since I demonstrated my ability, in grade school, to sit and listen while other children analyzed this or that to the hilt of plausibility and beyond, I have had a soft spot for writers who debunk the creative analysis of other writers. Mendelsohn’s essay supplies this service in spades.
The essay takes a while (a delightful and informative while) to get under way but evenually Mendelsohn gets down to defenestrating The Parthenon Enigma, by Joan Breton Connelly. It is great good work. Connelly has upended the field of Parthenon analysis, a field that has persisted for millennia, with her supposedly sudden revelation that its frieze – “Deep Frieze” may be one of the best titles since a review in The New Republic of Scotty Reston’s autobiography called “Reston On His Laurels” – was about the sacrifice of virgins.
I regret to say that the full piece lurks behind a firewall. I cannot get by it. Nevertheless, the link gets you to the essay’s introductory fillip, which is most engaging. Mendelsohn imagines archaeologists of the future looking back 2,500 years at the ruins of One World Trade Center and has them wondering what it means. He thereby places the “creative interpretation” of the Parthenon’s “meaning” in deep context. Read and enjoy! I hope you can find it, even if you must buy a copy at the newsstand!