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dr. J.J.H. (Jacqueline) Klooster

Assistant Professor
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The Revisionist Muse: Modern retellings of Greco-Roman Myth from a female perspective

Since 2017, in the wake of #metoo, there has been a remarkable explosion of popular novels which rewrite ancient Greco-Roman myths from a female perspective. What can we learn from this about the importance of collective memory, rewriting, criticism, creativity, and market mechanisms for discussing societal issues? Which implicit and explicit gender norms from ancient myths are addressed by these rewritings? Which changes in narrative structure and perspective do they entail? Who are target and actual audiences of this literature? How does reading the rewritings influence modern views of ancient myths? And why are Greco-Roman myths singled out for re-writing?

I received a LIRA fonds scholarship for the writing of a popular science book on this theme in 2022.

Leadership and Literary Art: how the ancient world evaluated literature written by its political leaders (ongoing)

In the modern world the figure of the poet-dictator is all too familiar. The lyrics of Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin, the novels of Benito Mussolini and Saddam Hussein and the infamous Green Book of Muammar Gaddafi represent but a small selection of the corpus of dictatorial literature. It is difficult to separate our evaluation of these writings from that of the leadership qualities and inhuman ideologies of their authors. Yet a number of intriguing questions remain: why did these men write what they did? And what can their efforts tell us about the function and status of literature? Can our literary judgment ever be wholly separate from political ideology?

The ancient world too was familiar with the phenomenon of the leader-author, and hence with similar questions. A number of prominent leaders, both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ones, produced poetry, autobiographies, philosophical treatises, historical and scholarly works: Solon, Dionysius I, Caesar, Cicero, Nero, Marcus Aurelius, to name the most famous. The main questions this research project focuses on are: how did Greeks and Romans regard leaders who were also literary artists? Or, how does the evaluation of political leadership interact with the evaluation of literary art? What can these evaluations teach us about changing leadership values? And what, in turn, do they reveal about the development of the (political, ideological, social) functions of literature?

see Homer and the Good Ruler in Antiquity and beyond

II) After the Crisis (completed) : see

See: After the Crisis

III) Hellenistic Workshops (Hellenistic Groningana)

Crisis and Resilience in Hellenistic Poetry (Groningen workshop 2021)

Crises come in many forms. War, famine and illness plague humanity, and severe personal crises (conflict, rejection, loss) are also an integral part of human condition. The challenge for individuals has always been to overcome crisis, both on a global and on a personal level. In different ages, such resilience has looked different. It can take the form of increased religiosity, superstition, or even attempts at magic, increased violence and revenge or attempts at reconciliation, and we also see a turn to different forms of philosophy. The Hellenistic age is especially famous for its philosophical schools (most notably Epicureanism and Stoicism) that propagate peace of mind through ataraxia (serene calmness) and apatheia (freedom from emotions). These philosophies influenced the literature of the age: it has been suggested that Epicureanism influenced Theocritean poetry, and it has been established that Stoic backgrounds colour Aratus’ Phaenomena and Kleanthes’ Hymn to Zeus. But beyond philosophy, all sorts of individual emotional coping mechanisms can be imagined in response to crisis. They range from practical solutions to global crises (migration, rebuilding of cities, peace treaties) to emotional responses to personal crises (e.g., denial, agression, apology, appeasement, forgiveness and mourning rituals).

This issue of the Groningen Hellenistic Workshop will focus on the theme of crisis and resilience as it is depicted in Hellenistic Poetry. To what extent can we find echoes of this topic in Hellenistic poetry, and what realities do they reflect? We can think, for instance, of epic depictions of the aftermath of personal and political conflict and revenge, flight and ritual purification (Argonautica), attempts to reach peace of mind after heartbreak (Theocritus, epigram), or the appeasing of angered divinities (Callimachus’ hymns).

Last modified:12 April 2023 11.43 a.m.