This post is dedicated to Devon, who, at the end of reading Wolfram’s Parzifal, tossed her book on the table in frustration and asked, “Why do the women always have to be given away like property?”
Marie de France, as depicted in a medieval manuscript. (Source)
Name: Marie de France
Birthplace/Dates: France–possibly the Vexin region (between the Ile de France and Normandy), roughly 1140-1215?
Occupation/Claim to Fame: The first person to write what we would now call “chivalric tales.” She was author of several texts (including one translation): most famously, a collection of 12 Lais, brief poetic tales that were forerunners to works like Wolfram’s Parzifal and the Roman de la Rose. Marie also produced a collection of Fables (based on Aesop and other classical sources), and a religious text called The Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick (based on a Latin document…
“What I want is for men to read my work and make the same leap of identity that we [women] have to make when we read one of the 99 percent of comic strips that star straight white men, boys, or animals.” – Alison Bechdel
As many of you know, for almost 2 years I worked on a book on Alison Bechdel, hence why we read Fun Home a few semesters ago. As a matter of fact, our class played a role in my writing process; teaching her graphic memoir helped me flesh out some key elements within the work. In the Acknowledgements section of my book, I even thanked Mike and Amy and our Spoilers class directly.
Well, now my book is (finally) available for purchase. I’m attaching the link to the publisher’s website and the flier for the book, just on the off chance any of you are interested in buying a copy.
The history of the interpretation of myth is about as varied as myth itself. As we delve into Salley Vickers’ Where Three Roads Meet you may want to learn more about how myth was interpreted. After all, one of the two voices in Where Three Roads Meet is Sigmund Freud, who famously interpreted the myth of Oedipus as being about childhood sexual desires, frustrations, and jealousies.
This first link provides a brilliant and succinct overview of how myth has been interpreted in each period from ancient Greece down to the present. It includes everyone from Xenophanes of Colophon, Anaxagoras, Socrates and Plato, to Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Claude Lévi-Strauss.
Where the first link organizes various approaches to myth chronologically from oldest to more recent, this link connects to a page that divides interpretations up according to guiding principles (i.e. “as disguised history”; “as pre-scientific explanation” etc).
Here are three sources that may help you with “Where Three Roads Meet”.
The first is a review written by Salley Vickers for The Guardian. You can read it by clicking here. In addition to summarizing the story of Oedipus, Vickers’ critiques Freud’s theory by suggesting that Freud emphasizes the story of the child who kills his father and beds his mother, while failing to recognize the equally important story of the parents who disastrously fail to murder their child.
This second source is from Liz Gloyn’s excellent blog, Classically Inclined. You can read her insightful, short post here.
The third source I’ve selected is a literary analysis of the role of Tireseas, the seer, in the novel. It’s a bit longer and denser than the other two pieces, but for those of you with time on your hands, you can read it here.
In preparation for reading / discussing Salley Vickers’ Where Three Roads Meet, some of you may wish to listen to or read Oedipus the King. The 1986 BBC adaptation is available, streaming, through NOVA’s library. Search for it in Films on Demand. This link should get you there but you may have to logon using your NOVA ID and password to view the movie.
You can also listen to the play. Audible has an excellent full-cast production of the play as translated by Nicholas Rudall, but if you don’t have an audible account you may wish to listen to this version on Youtube:
Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Youtube, 28 September 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9WOQT7qD7w
Some of you may prefer to read the play. There are numerous translations available, but here is at least one online, verse translation.
Sophocles. Oedipus the King. Translated by Ian Johnston, 2014, http://johnstoniatexts.x10host.com/sophocles/oedipusthekinghtml.html. Accessed 9 Sept. 2018.
You may also want to read this interview with Salley Vickers:
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation fifth season episode, “Darmok,” Captain Picard, played by the fabulous Patrick Stewart, summarizes The Epic of Gilgamesh for an alien commander. In Picard’s account, the focus is not on Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality, but rather on the grief Gilgamesh experiences at the loss of his friend, Enkidu. Gilgamesh’s grief foreshadows Picard’s grief when his alien friend dies. You can see Patrick Stewart telling the story here:
In Circe we encounter both Titans and Olympians, as well as many stories related to these gods. Many of the gods we may already know; many of the stories we may have heard; some of the gods and some of the stories may be new to us. As a primer or refresher on the Olympian key players, I have found a great little text titled The Twelve Olympians.
A large number of women in Greek mythology exist, but we usually only hear or discuss a few; here is a fairly comprehensive list of all of them. It’s an extensive list and well worth spending some time digging through; it’s no small task. We will discuss the key ones related to Circe in class, but there are so many more than we generally realize.