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Heretical Hellenism: Women Writers, Ancient Greece, and the Victorian Popular Imagination

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The prevailing assumption regarding the Victorians’ relationship to ancient Greece is that Greek knowledge constituted an exclusive discourse within elite male domains. Heretical Hellenism: Women Writers, Ancient Greece, and the Victorian Popular Imagination challenges that theory and argues that while the information women received from popular sources was fragmentary and often fostered intellectual insecurities, it was precisely the ineffability of the Greek world refracted through popular sources and ...

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Overview

The prevailing assumption regarding the Victorians’ relationship to ancient Greece is that Greek knowledge constituted an exclusive discourse within elite male domains. Heretical Hellenism: Women Writers, Ancient Greece, and the Victorian Popular Imagination challenges that theory and argues that while the information women received from popular sources was fragmentary and often fostered intellectual insecurities, it was precisely the ineffability of the Greek world refracted through popular sources and reconceived through new fields of study that appealed to women writers’ imaginations.

Examining underconsidered sources such as theater history and popular journals, Shanyn Fiske uncovers the many ways that women acquired knowledge of Greek literature, history, and philosophy without formal classical training. Through discussions of women writers such as Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Jane Harrison, Heretical Hellenism demonstrates that women established the foundations of a heretical challenge to traditional humanist assumptions about the uniformity of classical knowledge and about women’s place in literary history.

Heretical Hellenism provides a historical rationale for a more expansive definition of classical knowledge and offers an interdisciplinary method for understanding the place of classics both in the nineteenth century and in our own time.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Heretical Hellenism offers new ideas and opens the door to to an area of cultural influence on Charlotte Brontë’s work that has until now remained virtually unconsidered.”
Brontë Studies

“Fiske’s Heretical Hellenism offers a nuanced perspective…focusing on women who may have lacked formal training in Greek but who nevertheless gained access to antiquity through its representations in Victorian popular culture or who were quick studies of the ancients but nevertheless expressed anxiety about the insufficiency of their classical learning.”
Journal of British Studies

“(T)his is a book that will appeal to classicists, Victorianists, feminists, and historians. Fiske skillfully interlaces Victorian culture and current events that impinge on her subject—the purchase of the Elgin Marbles and their installment in the British Museum…; sensational murder trials; the rise of women’s colleges; and Britain’s reevaluation of its educational system following WWII….”
— Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Shanyn Fiske is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University at Camden. She is the author of articles on Charlotte Brontë, Jane Harrison, Charles Dickens, and Alicia Little.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Hellenism and Heresy 1

Ch. 1 Victorian Medea: From Sensationalism to Subjectivity 24

Ch. 2 Fragments of Genius: Charlotte Bronte' and the Discourse of Popular Greek 64

Ch. 3 Heretical Humanism: Romola and Hellenism's Distaff Legacy 112

Ch. 4 The Daimon Archives: Jane Harrison and the Afterlife of Dead Languages 149

Afterword: The First World War and the Death of Heresy 189

Notes 199

Bibliography 237

Index 259

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