Ancient Greek culture is pervaded by a profound ambivalence regarding female beauty. It is an awe-inspiring, supremely desirable gift from the gods, essential to the perpetuation of a man's name through reproduction; yet it also grants women terrifying power over men, posing a threat inseparable from its allure. The myth of Helen is the central site in which the ancient Greeks expressed and reworked their culture's anxieties about erotic desire. Despite the passage of three millennia, contemporary culture remains almost obsessively preoccupied with all the power and danger of female beauty and sexuality that Helen still represents. Yet Helen, the embodiment of these concerns for our purported cultural ancestors, has been little studied from this perspective. Such issues are also central to contemporary feminist thought.
Helen of Troy engages with the ancient origins of the persistent anxiety about female beauty, focusing on this key figure from ancient Greek culture in a way that both extends our understanding of that culture and provides a useful perspective for reconsidering aspects of our own. Moving from Homer and Hesiod to Sappho, Aeschylus, and Euripides, Ruby Blondell offers a fresh examination of the paradoxes and ambiguities that Helen embodies. In addition to literary sources, Blondell considers the archaeological record, which contains evidence of Helen's role as a cult figure, worshipped by maidens and newlyweds. The result is a compelling new interpretation of this alluring figure.
|Publisher:||Oxford University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Ruby Blondell is Professor of Classics at the University of Washington.
Table of Contents
1. The Problem of Female Beauty
2. Helen, Daughter of Zeus
3. Self-Blame and Self-Assertion: the Iliad
4. Happily Ever After? The Odyssey
5. Refractions of Homer's Helen: Archaic Lyric
6. Behind the Scenes: Aeschylus' Oresteia
7. Spartan Woman and Spartan Goddess: Herodotus
8. Playing Defense: Gorgias' Encomium of Helen
9. Enter Helen: Euripides' Trojan Women
10. Two-Faced Helen: the Helen of Euripides
11. Helen MacGuffin: Isocrates
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story of Helen of Troy is one of the most beloved myths in history. Like most stories, the variant of her life changes upon whom you talk to and what you read, but the consensus has held true that her strength and beauty ushered in the femme fatale stories that would succeed her own. This book further explores the magnificent stories of Helen, providing readers with an in-depth understanding and appreciation for one of the finest historical periods: Ancient and Classical Greece. Author Ruby Blondel, a professor of classics at the University of Washington, goes all out utilizing the vast array of literature from the Iliad and Odyssey to the heroic tales of Helen, including Euripides’s The Trojan Women. No detail is spared or discounted and when brought together in this type of forum tells a beautifully epic story to be told until the end of time. “Helen is an emblematic figure of the bride in art and texts, and as well as cult.” If you have an appreciation for the classics or even just strong feminine roles, you will want to pick this book up. It will easily become a favorite amongst the rest of your library for years to come. *This book was provided in exchange for an honest review *You can view the original review at San Francisco Book Review