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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


GK Myth

GK Myth: Women and the Subversive Power of Myth

Course Convenor: Dr Liana Giannakopoulou (

This module focuses on feminist reworkings of ancient Greek myths by women writers (and, in some cases, men sensitive to women’s concerns). It will explore feminist perspectives on classical reception. Each seminar will concentrate on one of three mythical figures, Penelope, Eurydice and Iphigenia, who have all, since the 1970s, been at the centre of an emerging feminist theoretical discourse in the sphere of classical reception. The final seminar will discuss cinematic reworkings of these figures in three Greek films, two well-known and another less so, but all unlocking fascinating and original perspectives on the old stories.
Our starting point will be modern Greek poetry, which shows a surprisingly early engagement with issues of gender representation in literature and classical myth; some of the poems we will discuss predate the 1970s surge in theoretical feminist texts. As heirs to a weighty classical tradition, which has largely been appropriated by men in the context of a nationally-oriented literature, Greek women poets are well-placed to question, challenge and subvert established patterns of classical reception. Myth gives them the space to do so effectively and with great originality.
The module will not be restricted to modern Greek literature. Modern Greek texts will be placed in the broader context of world literature, alongside poems from the United States (Hilda Doolittle), Canada (Margaret Atwood), Germany (Rilke) and Poland (Zbignew Herbert), as we explore and discuss the ways in which these myths have gradually contributed to the shaping of a poetics of resistance to dominant, patriarchal and authoritative discourses. We shall explore how original reworkings of old stories not only provide new readings of the source texts but may also challenge the very genres in which these stories are told and female identities were first framed: epic, tragedy and lyric.
This module is open to non-Greek speakers as well as those with a reading knowledge of Greek. Translations of all the poems discussed will be provided, and all the films have English subtitles.
There will normally be a maximum capacity of 14 for this module.

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