SYRACUSE AS VIETNAM: THE CLASSICAL INTERTEXT OF JOSEPH HELLER’S PICTURE THIS

F.R. Pauw

Abstract


This article explores the classical intertext of Joseph Heller’s 1988 novel Picture This and its concern with ancient Greek and modern American wars. First, the challenges which the generic peculiarities of the work pose to its interpretation will be investigated. Next, Heller’s postmodernist narrative devices and their effect will be evaluated. Since Picture This deals in large part with classical Athenian history and philosophy,2 this article will also examine Heller’s use of classical sources, including certain factual and terminological errata. The penultimate section argues that Heller’s critical concern with wars and imperialism in classical Athens relates to his perception of the American involvement in the Vietnam War. Finally, I suggest that while Heller’s novel can be read as a warning against the corruptive power of politics and war, he remains sceptical of mankind’s ability to learn from history.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/54-0-29

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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