11 May 2016
My project is to help create a new course for Davidson’s Classics Department. The goal of this course would be combine two important, seemingly contradictory, fields—Gender and Sexualities Studies and Classics. The course will begin by providing an overview of the history between feminism and classics, and how classicists have been in serious conversation with feminist theory since the 1970s, and the difficulties that have arisen from that discourse. The course will then apply a feminist lens to various aspects of antiquity, addressing various questions and problems. And hopefully, this course will add important nuance to a vital part of Davidson’s academic program.
Classics and feminism are vital to one another. Classics needs feminism in order to stay relevant and interesting as we move further into the 21st century, and as we begin to value and study those who have been traditionally marginalized or ‘othered’ on account of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Without it, not only will classical studies become boring for students, it will essentially become irrelevant. And further, applying a feminist lens to classics will only deepen our understanding of the ancients—how they lived, what they thought, and what their actions meant. Likewise, feminism needs classics. So much of our society today—yes, even our problematic, elitist patriarchal structures—are handed down from the ancients. Knowledge of our past is certainly necessary to understand our present. And we can certainly learn a thing or two from the women of antiquity.
I will start by doing extensive research over the summer, working with a professor who also feels strongly for the inclusion of feminist theory in the study of classics. The research will focus on two main areas. The first is the struggle of the feminist within the profession, such as fewer promotions and less pay then men in the field. The second is the difficulties that feminists have when ‘doing’ classics through a feminist lens. For instance, they must deal with little evidence (since ancient women rarely wrote), and even the evidence that does exist about women is often written by men, which adds a layer to its complexity when trying to analyze it. The summer will be spent trying to find evidence of these various things, as well as scholars who are actively trying to do feminist work in classics. The end result will hopefully be a syllabus for a class that can be taught within the Classics Department here at Davidson.