Book of the Sphinx


Book of the Sphinx

Willis Goth Regier

Texts and Contexts Series

320 pages
109 Illus., index


October 2007


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Sought, the Sphinx seems everywhere, whether the guardian of the pyramids on Egypt's Giza plateau or the beautiful man-eater with a deadly riddle, to be approached with awful caution. The Sphinx, that icon painted, sculpted, engraved, and exalted in poetry, fiction, and music, so impressed the philosopher Hegel that he pronounced the creature “the symbol of the symbolic itself.” With a wealth of illustrations, Book of the Sphinx confirms Hegel's lofty judgment, finding the Sphinx everywhere: in tragedies, paintings, opera, murder mysteries, brothels, bars, and advertisements.
Pursuing the Sphinx through kaleidoscopic sightings and encyclopedic observations, Willis Goth Regier plumbs the symbol's mysteries, conducting the reader down ever more perplexing and intriguing paths. Wonderfully readable, his highly idiosyncratic tour of the ages and the arts leads at last to a conception of the Sphinx that embraces nothing less than all that is unknowable—proving once again that confronting a Sphinx is one of the most dangerous and exhilarating adventures of the imagination.

Author Bio

Willis Goth Regier has pursued Sphinxes at the University of Nebraska, Johns Hopkins University, and Harvard University. He now seeks Sphinxes at the University of Illinois.


“A very accomplished, well-written book. Book of the Sphinx is immensely erudite, with a wealth of references from all historical periods, from ancient Egypt to modern times, and from the most diverse realms.”—Jonathan Culler, the author of Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics and the Study of Literature

“A successfully playful work of nonfiction that situates itself in the academic landscape somewhere between cultural history and comparative literature, Sphinx is both scholarly and imaginative…. Every good library should have it, and so should every coffee table.”—Joshua T. Katz, American Journal of Archaeology

"Book of the Sphinx is a delight. Willis Regier is not only very learned but also creative in making fiction, even poetry, out of the myth of the Sphinx and the histories of that myth. His own retellings are artful and compelling."—Gregory Nagy, author of Plato's Rhapsody and Homer's Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens

“This impressive book, based on solid scholarship lightly worn, playfully tracks the Sphinx through history, art, literature, and illustration, and is likely to produce a wave of Sphinxophilia. . . . Regier is an unrivaled guide.”—ForeWord Magazine

“Delightful. . . . A grab bag, treasure trove, and star chart of the mythic monster's whereabouts in art, religion, history, and literature, with the winks, nods, footnotes, bird trills, and memory-bank shots of a scholar so intimately at home that he seems, like his subject, to be playing with his food. The illustrations are as sly as the text.”—John Leonard, Harper’s Magazine

“Idiosyncratic, fun, and poetic.”—Joshua Glenn, Boston Sunday Globe

“From ancient art to contemporary popular music, Regier ranges widely in exploring the meaning of the enigmatic image of the sphinx. . . . A compelling book about an engaging subject.”—Booklist

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Phix and Horemakhet
2. Secrets
3. Confrontations
4. Riddles
5. Body
6. Eros
7. Mind
8. Symbol of Symbols
9. Exit


2005 Outstanding Academic Book, sponsored by Choice Magazine, selection

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