Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Illiad

I was stung by a passing comment in the bibliosphere recently. It was this simple, "A girl’s actually interested in the Iliad? Very nice." He was surpised eh, that a female would 'actually' read the Illiad.

I guess I was in my early teens when I read through much of the Illiad in Greek. It doesn't provide strong female characters - but it does contain many female characters.

In my imagination, I was Briseis, torn from the tent of the heroic warrior Achilles, to provide sex for a king who was so callous as to sacrifice his own daughter to the gods. I was Andromache, mourning for both husband and son, dragged off to a end her life in slavery. I was Cassandra, always Cassandra and still Cassandra, doomed to know the future and doomed to never be believed.

It really ticks me off that some random biblioblog commenter would think that a woman would not read the Illiad.


Donald Johnson said...

Are yow trying to claim that women can read? :)

Rod said...

The more important question should be, Suzanne,

Why aren't more north Americans reading the greek classics instead of settling for second rate education systems?

J. L. Watts said...

What an idiot. Bless his little heart.

Theophrastus said...

No strong female characters? Are you kidding?

What about Hera? She kicks Zeus's tush (in a particularly feminine attack as well, as you will recall)!

And what about Athena? She kicks Ares's behind not just once, but twice!

And they also get the best lines of any of the immortals.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Somehow I never thought of myself as a goddess in those days. How silly of me!


I don't teach the classics myself. I teach realistic fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, but I have not taught the Illiad to school children.

Kristen said...

I read the Iliad in high school in "college bound reading" class. I didn't really understand it then. I read it again in college lit and it made a lot more sense.

To be fair to the guy who made the comment, when I read the Iliad (both times!) I felt it had way too many battles with blow-by-blow accounts of the killings. Most of the guys in the class liked it for exactly that reason. So no, I didn't care for the Ilead, and yes, it was kind of a "girl-thing." But just because I fit the stereotype doesn't mean all women will, so the comment was still a little off. And he certainly shouldn't have called you a "girl," Suzanne, unless he's accustomed to referring to men as "boys."

But dispite the general cluelessness, he may have meant nothing worse than "A woman who liked the movie Braveheart? How nice!"

Suzanne McCarthy said...

He wasn't referring to me, so 'girl' was accurate in this case.

Lin said...

Maybe the guy does not get out much.

Anonymous said...

I apologize for the careless comment. I guess what I had consciously in mind was how Pride and Prejudice also had a reputation as a ‘girly’ book, but I found it excellent myself; likewise, the Iliad tends to have that ‘masculine’ reputation, and it’s great when women overcome (or can be blissfully unaware of) that hump.

Two months ago I also thought how most people couldn’t name a single major female classical music composer (Hildegard of Bingen was too early to figure into these random musings) and fantasized about having a daughter who one day could break this stranglehold. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist by any stretch of the imagination, but my favourite characters have always been people like Galadriel who struggle with desire for greatness, desire for good and evil in the world.