Prof. Robert Wagman used the Rothman Faculty Summer Fellowship to work on a book project entitled Beliefs of Modern Greece (BMG), an annotated English translation of Leo Allatius’ De Graecorum hodie quorundam opinationibus from 1645. BMG is the first comprehensive treatment of Greek folklore ever published and has never been translated into to English. Furthermore, BMG is not easily accessible and is often only quoted (by modern scholars) in parts or excerpts due to the small number of copies available mostly in Europe. Even an original text, once found, is hard to read because its abbreviations and symbols are difficult to understand without practice and training in early Greek fonts. All of these concerns combine to show the need for an English translation of BMG.
BMG is important to Greek studies and popular culture because it contains, among other materials, the first extensive work about the vampire in European literature. Because of the uniqueness of its contents, BMG is heavily relied upon in multiple fields of scholarship, and is of increasing interest to non-academic audiences. Furthermore, BMG is a primary source for Greek popular religion during the Medieval and Early modern periods, providing detailed descriptions of folk practices like curing illnesses and colorful images of mythical creatures like water nymphs and hobgoblins. Greek folklore provides the foundation for many literary and historical narratives throughout modern history; the stories attempt explain social fears and fantasies that get recorded and adapted through many centuries and many cultures. Elements of Greek folklore continue to live in popular culture, as the Western world is still just as fascinated with vampires as the Greeks were in 1645. An English translation of such a rich and comprehensive text will allow unprecedented access to a communal literary past.
Prof. Wagman began his project with visits to the Gennadius Library in Athens, Greece, and the Christ Church and Bodleian libraries at Oxford. He then used his Rothman Summer Fellowship to supplement his extensive research and spend an additional month in Greece to research annotations to Allatius’s many topographical references in BMG. Prof. Wagman’s annotations help the everyday reader and scholar alike wade through the multiple references, allusions, and citations common in medieval and early modern Greek texts. Without editorial comments, much meaning and understanding of the literature is lost.
This comprehensive English translation of BMG will offer an extremely valuable resource for both scholarly and popular audiences. It will grant immediate accessibility to a large group of readers, researchers and teachers, and eliminating previous reliance on excerpts and secondhand explanations of the primary text. Wagman’s work emphasizes the need for the recovery and translation of early modern Greek texts. It adds to the growing body of literary archival work, and significantly contributes to Modern Greek Studies and the University of Florida. His translation will allow us to investigate the origins of many popular characters of contemporary supernatural fiction.
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