The University of Wisconsin Press

Classics / Literature & Criticism / Drama


Sophocles’ Philoctetes and the Great Soul Robbery
Norman Austin

Wisconsin Studies in Classics
Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, Laura McClure, and Mark Stansbury-O’Donnell, Series Editors

“Austin’s passionate reading will be of interest to anyone who engages seriously with this challenging work.”
—Deborah Lyons, Miami University

Norman Austin brings both keen insight and a life-long engagement with his subject to this study of Sophocles’ late tragedy Philoctetes, a fifth-century BCE play adapted from an infamous incident during the Trojan War. In Sophocles’ Philoctetes and the Great Soul Robbery, Austin examines the rich layers of text as well as context, situating the play within the historical and political milieu of the eclipse of Athenian power. He presents a study at once of interest to the classical scholar and accessible to the general reader. Though the play, written near the end of Sophocles’ career, is not as familiar to modern audiences as his Theban plays, Philoctetes grapples with issues—social, psychological, and spiritual—that remain as much a part of our lives today as they were for their original Athenian audience.

Norman Austin is professor emeritus of classics at the University of Arizona, where he taught for twenty years, as well as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Classics at Florida Atlantic University. He is author of Meaning and Being in Myth and Helen of Troy and Her Shameless Phantom.


“In this passionate and original reading of one of the greatest (but less known) of Greek tragedies, Norman Austin guides us through Sophocles’ drama scene by scene and sometimes line by line. Whether for the student of classics, religion, philosophy, psychology, medicine, or culture, there are revelations and reverberations everywhere. Austin’s knowledge is profound and his enthusiasm is contagious.”
—Rachel Hadas, editor of The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present

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the cover of Austin's book is blue-green, with a Greek statue of a helmeted man putting on his sandels.

August 2011
LC: 2010044623 PA
240 pp.   6 x 9   1 map

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-28274-5
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