Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Authors have been retelling/elaborating upon classical texts such as the Iliad for centuries—but in the past fifteen years, a significant number of female authors have been turning to classical Greek and Roman mythology in order to rewrite ancient stories to reflect a modern interest in reclaiming female voices, deconstructing gender hierarchies, and excavating the stories of women and marginal characters from androcentric mythology. This project examines two recent Iliad retellings, The Silence of the Girls (2018), by Pat Barker, and The Song of Achilles (2011), by Madeline Miller. Both novels retell the same basic story of the Iliad, but they differ dramatically in tone, structure, popular reception, and relationship with the source material. The Silence of the Girls builds on a long history of feminist engagement with mythology by writers such as Hélène Cixous, Adrienne Rich, and Simone Weil, along with Iliad retellings like Memorial by Alice Oswald, in order to tell the gripping, previously-untold story of Briseis, the enslaved concubine of the hero Achilles, who must struggle for literal and psychological survival in a violently misogynistic world. The Song of Achilles is narrated by Patroclus, companion and lover of Achilles, and follows their tender love story to its tragic conclusion; throughout the novel, Miller challenges the epic model of masculinity and instead valorizes a different, gentler, more modern view of masculinity and heroism through the characters of the couple. The final chapter of the project looks beyond The Silence of the Girls and The Song of Achilles toward the future of the classical retelling genre, examining a number of recently-published mythical retellings that play with, recontextualize, and reimagine gender in the epic, and anticipating what might come next that will build upon this wave of feminist classical retellings.
Fording, Molly, "Sing, Goddess: Contemporary Female Novelistic Retellings of the Iliad" (2023). Honors Theses. 629.
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