Egypt in England and America: the cultural memorials of religion, royalty and revolution

E Chaney, Adriana Corrado, Maurizio Ascari

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    My interest in the cultural memory of ancient Egypt evolved from my work on the Grand Tour. Most British travellers first encountered ancient Egypt in Rome, where in particular the obelisks and their hieroglyphs inspired curiosity concerning the civilization that had produced them. Egypt was already familiar from ancient literature and the Bible. Henry VIII passed an 'Egyptian Act', banning gypsies from England and conversely Shakespeare's Cleopatra was the 'Gypsy' whore. In parallel with its Roman image as decadent ran the Old Testament legacy of Egypt's 'ancient wisdom' associated with the name of Hermes Trismegistus. The latter was discredited in the seventeenth century but following decipherment of hieroglyphs, Victorian travellers were stunned by their encounter with pre-classical visual culture of such superb quality and longevity. Freud argued that Moses was an Egyptian who derived his idea of monotheism from the sun-worshipping Pharaoh Akhenaten. His grandson, the painter, Lucian Freud, was influenced by the cultural memory of Moses and Monotheism. I developed this material in a review of a book on Freud and Antiquity (in Psychoanalysis and History); a paper introducing the British School at Rome's Mellon-funded Roma Britannica conference and further for my lecture on 'Lord Arundel and the Obelisk of Domitian' at Arundel Castle and finalized it for the November 2006 conference on 'Mediterranean Paths, Images, Places and Civilizations' at the Universita della Svizzera Italiana. (forthcoming in the proceedings to be published by the British School at Rome). I am delivering a version of this at the London School of Economics in their conference on 'Facts and Artefacts: What Travels in Material Objects?' (funded by the Leverhulme Trust and ESRC:17 December 2007).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSites of Exchange
    Subtitle of host publicationEuropean Crossroads and Faultlines
    EditorsAdriana Corrado, Maurizio Ascari
    Place of PublicationAmsterdam
    PublisherEditions Rodopi B.V.
    Number of pages37
    ISBN (Print)90 420 2015 6
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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