A Quest for Remembrance: The Underworld in Classical and Modern literature brings together a range of arguments exploring connections between the descent into the underworld, also known as katabasis, and various forms of memory. Its chapters investigate the uses of the descent topos both in antiquity and in the reception of classical literature in the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. In the process, the volume explores how the hero’s quest into the underworld engages with the theme of recovering memories from the past. At the same time, we aim to foreground how the narrative format itself is concerned with forms of commemoration ranging from trans-cultural memory, remembering the literary and intellectual canon, to commemorating important historical events that might otherwise be forgotten. Through highlighting this duality this collection aims to introduce the descent narrative as its own literary genre, a ‘memorious genre’ related to but distinct from the quest narrative.


Introduction: The Long Descent into the Past
Madeleine Scherer

Chapter 1: The Even longer Descent: Notes on Genesis and Development of Ancient Egyptian Underworld Conceptions and their Interplay with Funerary Practice
Jakob Schneider

Chapter 2: Remembering in the Real World: Katabatic and Natural Deathscapes
Joel Gordon

Chapter 3: The Pestis Within: Concerns of the Underworld in Lucretius and Vergil
Abigail Buglass

Chapter 4: Memories of Rome’s Underworld in Lucan’s Civil War Narrative
Eleonora Tola

Chapter 5: The Open Door to Elysium in Lucian’s True History
A. Everett Beek

Chapter 6: ‘One of Marlow's inconclusive experiences’: The Katabatic Wisdom Tradition in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness
Karen Borg Cardona

Chapter 7: ‘By My Voice I Shall Be Known’: T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and the Willing Voices of the Dead
Yi-Chuang E. Lin

Chapter 8: Katabasis: Ancient and Modern Desires for Heroic Memory
Frances Foster

Chapter 9: An Australian-made hell’: Postcolonial Katabasis in Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book

Arnaud Barras

Chapter 10: Memory and Forgetfulness in Seamus Heaney’s Virgilian Underworlds
Rachel Falconer

Chapter 11: ‘all must descend to where the stories are kept’: Textual Remembrance and Katabasis in Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad
Madeleine Scherer

List of Contributors