An erudite, eloquent, and wide-ranging examination of oracles by one of our most creative literary critics
For thousands of years, and in many different cultures, cities, and states, individuals have consulted oracles in time of need. In this fascinating exploration of the history and enduring popularity of oracles, Michael Wood examines how they are interpreted and why. The inherent ambiguity of many oracular pronouncements and the ingenuity and tendentiousness of many readings of them form the basis for Wood’s analyses of oracles, both real and imagined. Using examples from actual oracles at Delphi, Dodona, and in pre-Hispanic America to fictional—but influential—oracles in literature from Oedipus to Macbeth, Wood combines storytelling and commentary to provide an entertaining and concise account of humanity’s persistent faith in signs. He also looks at later instances of oracles, arguing that consultations have evolved in many ways over the years, and that echoes and survivals of old practices in modern literature and popular culture—in the works of Kafka and in the film The Matrix, as well as in astrology columns—continue to exert an important influence over human civilization.
Lively, engaging, and remarkably revealing, The Road to Delphi shows an ancient art at work in many times and places, and invites us to think again about the ways in which we deal with our longing for the certainties we know we can’t have.