Your browser lacks required capabilities. Please upgrade it or switch to another to continue.
Would you like to play a game?
<<textbox "$player_name" "Your name" "Greetings">>
Don't worry - your life isn't on the line.
Hello, <<print $player_name>>!
Let's answer a question. When you hear the word "herculean" what do you think of first?
A) [[A difficult or arduous task, probably requiring lots of strenght or endurance.|Getting Part of It]]
B) [[Hercules, by his Roman name, or Heracles, in his native Greek, the legendary hero of unfathomable strenght who accomplished 12 difficult tasks.|Getting All of It]] Yes, $player_name! This is the denotation, or dictionary definition, of the word! However, have you ever wondered where this word comes from? If you haven't, I'd say it's time you begun!
Perhaps another answer could be the key?
[[Nah, I remember seeing something about some dude named Hercules.|Getting All of It]]
Yes! The word "herculean" derives from the legendary Greek hero, Heracles (or Hercules, as he's known to us today thanks to the Romans). Hercules was known for compelting 12 incrediblly difficult tasks (the 12 Labors of Hercules), mostly relying on his god-like brute strenght and the incredible endurance it provided him. Thus, when a task requires an incredible amount of strenght or stamina, one could justly call it "herculean."
There are many people who wouldn't jump straight to the myth when asked this question, though they would know the definition as we use it today. That is because the myth of Hercules became so ubiquitious an allusion at some point in the past of Western Civilization that it became a shorthand of itself! What I mean is, instead of saying something like "he's the Hercules of our town," they switched to "his herculean strength is our town's pride." Both sentences essentially say the same thing, but the first allusion asks the listener/reader to intuit what about Hercules is being used to define this town's individual as unique enough to be singled out (mixture of his strength, success, and renown), while the other turns that allusion into an adjective to short-cut the thought process concerning what is unique about the individual (his strength).
[[Did you choose this answer on your first try?|Knowing the Allusion's Origin]]
[[Did you not put together the connection cause you don't really know Hercules in any way, shape, or form?|What Knowing the Allusion's Origins Means]]
If you picked the Hercules option first, $player_name, good job! What this means, though, is that you've either watched some TV show, movie, or game with Hercules in it (I'm partial to Disney's version) or that you read the myth on your own or in school.
It is important to take a step back to figure out why you'd learn about a Greek myth that's older than our current calendar system. Especially since we've all hit an allusion in a book, poem, show, movie, or game which we just didn't get. And most of us (me included), often pass over the allusion with a cursory "ah, this is a reference to something, but ain't no body got time to look that up." That's fair - we're all busy, not all of us have constant access to a means of defining/explaining the allusion, etc. etc. etc. Like I said, I'm guilty of this too, and I'm the one harping on why allusions matter. However, even if you don't look up the allusion, it is important to question why the allusion is in the text at all.
So what do you think? If you came across a sentence like this, and you didn't have the chance to investigate each explicit allusion, what would you think of it:
"The eight great polished columns stood up in the dusk like so many huge piles supporting the threatening, crumbling, big-bellied cliffs whose layers were represented by the circular, parallel, waving lines of the balconies of the grand, first and second tiers of boxes. At the top, right on top of the cliff, lost in M. Lenepveu's copper ceiling, figures grinned and grimaced, laughed and jeered at MM. Richard and Moncharmin's distress. And yet these figures were usually very serious. ''//Their names were Isis, Amphitrite, Hebe, Pandora, Psyche, Thetis, Pomona, Daphne, Clytie, Galatea and Arethusa. Yes, Arethusa herself and Pandora, whom we all know by her box,//'' looked down the two new managers of the Opera, who ended by clutching at some piece of wreckage and from there stared silently at Box Five on the grand tier."
A) [[I really don't care. I want to get back to the Phantom's shenanigans.|Expections of the Audience/Reader]]
B) [[These sound vaguely.... classical. Probably something from the same time as Hercules.|When You're Getting There]]
C) [[Okay, I know like... 2 of these? They're definitely classical... which probably means Leroux figured his readers would know which myths he was referring to? Also, the ones I do know seem kinda... thematically relevant? So I'm guessing that was intended too.|Investigating Culture Through Allusions]]
(Quote from Gaston Leroux's //Phantom of the Opera//, Barnes and Noble Classics, "Chapter 6: A Visit to Box Five," p.64-65)
That's the point of this website. Allusions are really finicky in this way. You get the allusion once you already know what its background is, but it completely goes over your head if you don't already know it. At least, that's what it feels like.
I'd argue, though, that often times, allusions are two-way streets; if an author is using one, you can use the text your reading to understand what the allusion refers to. After all, you may not know who Icarus is, but when you hear Angelica calling Hamilton an Icarus in the broadway musical //Hamilton//, you can infer it means someone who is self-destructively ambitious, right? Someone who doesn't seem to have a limit, or know when to stop? And you'd be right! The Fall of Icarus is a Greek myth about a boy who, against his father's warnings, flew too close to the sun, on wings made of feathers and glue, just to see how high he could go; the glue melted, and he plummeted into the ocean and drowned. Basically, $player_name, ya get it.
But that's not all there is to get, is it? Why is a Greek kid being referenced in a play about the American Revolution, written by a man of Puerto Rican descent? Why would //he// use such a reference? Why //would// he use such a reference?
''These'' are the kinds of next-level questions you can ask of an allusion - not just "what does it mean," but "why is it being used" and "what does that say both about the creator and receiver of the text?"
Explore the "Allusions" section of this website to see how these questions can be answered, and complicated, using more modern texts as your guide! Then you can go to the "Composition" section to try analyzing or writing allusions on your own!
Again, I grant it - that's a fair point. But, $player_name, the reason authors use allusions is to add nuance or context to a story - its themes, characters, or situations - based on the expectation that the reader will get the reference. We may not have time to look these alllusions up, but it is worth it to investigate what they mean, how they work in the text, and, most importantly, why they were used in the first place. After all, you don't make references to something unless you expect someone to get it (or you're looking for someone who will, which is also valid).
If you don't believe me, though, why don't you use the "Allusions" section of this website to explore a few newer uses of allusions? Follow me down the rabbit hole and come to understand, and enjoy, more about some of the pop culture you're interested in!
Yeah, $player_name, you're right! These are all (mostly Greek) classical allusions. Without knowing about each of these women individually, you've got the sense that their inclusion here means something. Pandora is primarily know for bringing chaos and other troubles to humanity; Isis was an Egyptian death Goddess who physically put back together and ruled alongside her husband, Osiris, after he was dismembered by his brother; Hebe was a Greek Goddess of youth, mercy, and forgiveness, who married Hercules and was the cupbearer of the opulent Gods; Galatea was the name of the statue-turned-human by Pygmalion as an ideal wife... Each of these women come to represent some aspect of the characters or their relationships in //The Phantom of the Opera.// Even if you don't look into each of these women - which you should, their stories are interesting and have different details depending on century and location - you get that this paragraph is a way to clue the reader into the complex dynamic going on between the Phantom and Christine within the Opera House.
Not only do you get a better sense of the characters and what kind of message the text is trying to convey through rapid-fire allusions like this, you also get this these allusions reflect back on the text's readership. Well... the expected readership. After all, France was the cultural capital of Europe for centuries, and all of Europe has taken aspects of Greco-Roman history and culture to infuse it within the culture of each country. Thus, a journalist turned author in 1909 France could reasonably expect his general readership to get at least some of these allusions and see what he's hinting at.
//This// is why allusions are important. Not only do they act as doorways (or windows, depending on how obscure a reference they are) into the text, they also reflect back onto the creator and the community who interact with the text. These allusions are used to share information - to communicate - with the community in a way that they would be expected to understand.
That's what my project is ultimately here to convey: the ways in which allusions act as guides for both a text and the culture and time period it comes from. This is how literature both invites a reader into its world (both fictive and historical), while opening up that world for connection to other times/cultures, communities, and texts. There's always more questions to ask when you come across an allusion than just, "what are you referring to?" And if you think this only happens in the ye olden texts from days of yore that your teacher is making you read, think again! Follow me down the rabbit hole and through the "Allusions" section of this website. Worst case scenario: you learn something new about a piece pop culture you didn't know before.
But this is all pretty self-evident, isn't it? At least, if one spends a few moments thinking about it, this all seems pretty obvious. There's a reason older texts, when read in high school, often have footnotes about what's being alluded to. No, the next level isn't just being able to discuss how an allusion works in the text, or what kinda meta-commentary it makes at large. Oh no. The next step... is writing one on your own. But where do you start? The "Composition" section of this website may give you a few ideas!So you're somewhere in the middle. You care enough to recognize where these allusions come from, but you're not really invested in figuring out why they're in the text. And like I said, that's fair. That leaves you with a shallow reading of the text, though, doesn't it? Give me a bit of time, maybe I can show you why it's importat to both understand what the allusion is referring to //and// why it's being made in the frist place. Worst case scenario: you learn something new you never knew you never knew.
$player_name, will you follow me down the rabbit hole? If so, explore the "Allusions" section of the website!