Wednesday, April 29, 2009


This semester has been great. I love classical literature and I had so much fun reading it or re-reading it in some cases and discussing it. I love all the connections we can make. Either through movies and books of the present day to the past or our own Bozeman Chronicle. It has become quite clear that the past possesses the present. I can't help but read into stories now. I look for their link to Ovid or Apuleius. I look to the activists of our time and see Antigone. The doomed romances and the brutal tragedies. Hard to cope with and harder to understand. Why? The death of a child, the rape of a woman. We cry and when we can't cry anymore, we laugh. Or from King Lear, "The worst returns to laughter." As Iphigenia says, "It is wrong to love life so much." We know the story doesn't have a happy ending and we learn to OK with that. There is life after it ends. But either tragedy or old comedy, either focused on the individual or the society, there is something there that teaches us and consoles us. It teaches us to cry at the right times or laugh at the awkward moments. It teaches us to purge our emotions or don't mess with women. It's more than right from wrong. The past teaches us to live in the present. Thank you to all my classmates for your wonderful blogs and presentations. You have taught me so much.

Love vs. Hate

We spent a lot of time talking about love from the Symposium, but not so much on the subject of hate. I think the best example from our readings of hate come from The Trojan Women. Also interesting to note that the Symposium consists of male characters when talking about love and The Trojan Women consists of female characters demonstrating hate. Anyway the Trojan women have watched their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers die in a lost war. Now it is their fate to be toted away from their homeland to become slaves and concubines. These feelings of grief and bitterness transform into a burning hatred focused on Helen of not so much Troy anymore. Their homes are gone. Their lives are gone. The only thing they have left even in the slightest bit in their control is to see Helen punished for bringing this destruction to them. Hecuba takes up the charge and does her best to present a calm and rational case against Helen. But she escapes their grasp and their justice. She will live. But the hate will remain in the Trojan women's hearts because it is all they have left after watching their love be destroyed.

Reading Favorites

My favorites of the semester in order from best to least:
1. The Golden Ass
2. Ovid
3. An Imaginary Life
4 .Lysistrata
5. Demeter and Persephone
6. To Hermes
7. Antigone
8. Steiner's Antigones
9. Trojan Women
10. Plato's Symposium
11. Iphigenia

Don't Look

The theme of 'don't look' is rather prevalent in classical mythology. Psyche is told not to look at Cupid or in the box of beauty. Orpheus is told not to look back at Eurydice. Pandora is told not to look in the box. What is it that is forbidden to humans? What aren't we suppose to see? Maybe its knowledge. 'Don't look' is different from' don't eat,' but I see the same theme in the Adam and Eve story as well. Something is forbidden and we do it anyway only to suffer the consequences. I think humans need rules to follow. Maybe the knowledge is withheld from us until we are ready to accept it. But we get impatient and want in now. Like when Orpheus looks back at Eurydice. He only had to wait and he would have had her alive again and in his arms. But he needed to see her now or did he need to know what death looked like? Is is curiosity or impatience that is our downfall and our resurrection?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reading into things

Ever since taking my first Sexson class, I can't help but read into things. I looked up a few jokes to post on my oral tradition blog and I discovered two things connected to this class.

The jokes were about marriage and they are the best kind in my opinion. Here is the first.

A man has six children and is very proud of his achievement. He is so proud of himself, that he starts calling his wife, "Mother of Six" in spite of her objections.
One night, they go to a party. The man decides that it's time to go home and wants to find out if his wife is ready to leave as well. He shouts at the top of his voice, "Shall we go home 'Mother of Six?'
His wife, irritated by her husband's lack of discretion, shouts right back, "Anytime you're ready, Father of Four."

This is Niobe! The man brags about all these children he has to someone who holds more knowledge than he does. Soon he finds himself with less children than he started with because of his arrogance. The second joke was a more broadly connected, but I think you will get it.

A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day, he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 AM for an early morning business flight. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence (and LOSE), he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 AM." He left it where he knew she would find it. The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 AM and he had missed his flight. Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't wakened him, when he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.. The paper said, "It is 5:00 AM. Wake up."
Men are not equipped for these kinds of contests

This is one of the Steiner conflicts from Antigones. Men vs women. And just like in the real Antigone, he is no match for her.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Beware the Women

Did you notice while reading the Golden Ass that most of the villains were female? More specifically female witches who seduced young men and could turn into animals. I mean the whole reason Lucius gets transformed is because of a woman, right? Blame the woman! It was her fault! Wow, that sounds familiar. But we do have to remember that it was also a woman who returned him to his human form and for that he joined the goddess Iris in her religious mysteries. The women in this book have a lot of power. Interesting, huh?

My thoughts on Rent a Family

The story below sounded so outrageous I just knew it had to come from Ovid. But I wasn't sure which story it was at first. I went through the chapter titles and there it was, Pygmalion. Don't like how the world is treating you? Can't stand reality? Then make something false become true and live happily ever after. Create something lifeless and give it life. Pygmalion didn't like the way he saw the women of his city behaving. They were cursed. So he took it upon himself to create the perfect woman. If this woman had an ad in the newspaper today, this would be it. Rent a family. Don't like your family? Replace them with another. Don't have anyone to go on vacation with? Take an imaginary one. Just think about. I don't know if there are any other stories in this article. I'd be happy to hear any ideas you might have.

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

GARDINER - "Need a personable, entertaining and helpful family to stand in at your wedding for your ill-mannered kin?
ERIK PETERSEN/CHRONICLE The Roberts Family, including Jim, Joni, and their children Emma, 9, Bennett, 7, Preston, 4, and Fiona, 1, pose for a photo in front of their Gardiner-area home. The family is available for rent on eBay, an idea they came up with as a unique way to make money in challenging economic times. Thinking of going on vacation, but don’t want to go alone?Trying to learn English and want some practice?No problem. There’s a family of six here for rent.“We’re all immunized, healthy, carry U.S. passports, non-smokers ready for your next assignment,” states the ad posted on eBay by the Roberts family.

The Roberts - Jim, 42, Joni, 39, Emma, 10, Bennett, 7, Preston, 4, and Fiona, 1 - are available for everything from family reunions to product endorsements.“I did put on the ad, ‘university testing,’ too, and I’m a little concerned about that,” Jim said this week. “I can see someone saying, ‘Here, take this.’ … The whole family?”The Roberts’ going rate is $250 per day, though they will not engage in anything illegal or immoral. And, any travel expenses must be paid and materials related to the job supplied.“If they want us to walk around in banana costumes, they have to supply the banana costumes,” Jim said, grinning.Jim and Joni say they hope their entrepreneurial venture will help them make a living in this economy, allow them to spend more time with their kids and make it possible to stay in the remote Montana town at the edge of Yellowstone National Park that they love so much.The Roberts’ kids are home schooled so they could go anywhere, at anytime, Joni said.“We thought in this economy, with things the way they are, we’ve got to be creative and we’ve got to kind of think outside the box,” she said. “How can we make money while we’re working together?”The family moved to a house that Joni’s family owns on the Yellowstone River last spring, after work slowed down at Jim’s job as a surveyor outside Seattle.Jim got the “Rent-A-Family” idea after seeing a help-wanted ad on Craig’s List seeking a family for a video being filmed in the area.“Maybe there’s someone who’s old and they don’t have any grandkids, but they’re taking a cruise around the world and wish they had some to share it with,” Jim said. “Why not us?“Or hey, rent the whole family to wear your company’s shirts,” he said. “We’ll be your custom representatives.”Or, Joni chimed in, “We could fill in the groom’s side” at a wedding. “The bride’s side always has a large amount of people.”The Roberts’ kids are on board with the idea. Under the pay scale the family has worked out, when they’re working, each kid would get $1 per day for each year they are old."
Who's story is this? All that is past possesses the present.

Symposium Presentation

Love is a word with no true synonym. Words such as affection and caring come close, but nothing exists in the English language to replace it. There is only one, ‘I love you.’ So what is love? Bell Hooks borrows Scott Peck’s definition of love early in her memoir, All About Love, as, “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love” (5). Love is a choice. Mainstream Hollywood would like its viewers to have the opposite opinion. The films targeted at women, both young and old, fling the old cliché of destiny and fate when concerning two lovers. The belief that it is more romantic to be destined for someone leads to higher ticket sales in the box office and the reality of love is left at home, at best. While we each have our own opinions on love, I think we learn the act of love as a child. Hooks writes that “we learn about love in childhood. Whether our homes are happy or troubled, our families functional or dysfunctional, it’s the original school of love” (17). Her belief is firmly planted that our outlook of life and love are shaped in childhood. It is an age of learning and lessons. It can be a time of hard choices and bitter tears or care free laughter and endless summer days. The environment that a child grows up in shapes his or her views of them self which later on will affect their behavior and attitude in a relationship. In this critical time, a child can either be built up to become a healthy well adjusted adult or he/she can be torn down and develop into an insecure, at times bitter, adult. Hooks continues, “In functional families individuals face conflict, contradictions, times of unhappiness, and suffering just like dysfunctional families do; the difference lies in how these issues are confronted and resolved, in how everyone copes in moments of crisis. Healthy families resolve conflict without coercion, shaming, or violence. Love and abuse cannot coexist” (Hooks 211). It is important that we make the distinction between what is love and what is not.
Love is not violence. While negative forces work against love, the positive forces are love. Love is healing, caring, service, compassion, forgiveness, trust, nonviolence, hope, and peace. 1st Corinthians takes this further, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.....It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” It is the positive constructive forces of life that make up this complex notion of love.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Explanation: Read after story

I found it interesting the way the Cupid and Psyche story was told by someone so as to make it a frame story. The old woman begins her tale in order to make the young captive woman more at ease in such a terrifying and strange world. She brought the girl back to herself through story. My story starts out the same. I even use the same words for the opening paragraph. I only changed a few of them to update it a bit. The story is also told from another’s perspective. Her name is Jess. She is the young assistant to the Venus character, Sateen. From her position she witnesses the whole affair.
I wanted to make it as believable as possible. I used technology as the force that drives the lovers apart instead of the candle wax. But the evil sisters remain the malignant catalyst that leads to Olette’s, the Psyche character, curiosity. However, I did let the sisters off easy. Their only punishment is they have to live with each other at the end of the story. There are references to other mythologies, as well as the same feeling of a rushed happily ever after ending. All that is past possesses the present.
So the story goes, the big and bad Sateen is getting left behind in the archives while Olette’s career is sky rocketing. She asks her son, Aaron, to destroy Olette’s reputation or at least her heart, much in the same way Venus orders Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with a loser. But when Aaron meets Olette for the first time, under disguise, he is instantly attracted to her and finds himself in quite a bind. His overbearing mother is out of the country at the time, so Aaron decides to date Olette under the alias Logan Hayfield. Just as the night covers Cupid’s appearance so does a fake beard and colored contacts work for Aaron. Another significant difference is the couple does not get married. Trying to keep up with the times, I have them in a committed relationship living together when the jealous sisters scheme to pry the couple apart.
Olette seeks Sateen’s help in contacting Aaron. This is the start to Olette’s tasks. Given the length of the paper, I skipped ahead to the last task. In order to receive Sateen’s help, Olette must pick up a box of beauty products from an apothecary in the Village. Again, the theme of “don’t look” is tossed out there. Olette retrieves the box, but her curiosity is too strong. So for some reason or another, just as Orpheus looks back at Eurydice, Olette peeks into the box. Olette passes out. Aaron saves her just as Cupid comes to Psyche’s rescue.
The big news comes at the end. Aaron must stop his trickster ways, much like Cupid, and focuses on writing greeting cards. Olette stops competing with Sateen by switching careers. The same thing happens in the story when Psyche becomes a goddess so that her mother-in-law can come to respect her. All literature is displaced myth. Our narrator keeps insisting that life isn’t a fairy tale and that elements from the past have no business in the present. But she’s just fooling herself. The present can’t help but replay the past. This is what I have come to learn in my Classical Foundations class.

Monday, April 13, 2009

More literary connections

If Lucius was alive today, one would think he was a pretty well read guy. Not only do I see allusions to Frankenstein, but also to Don Quixote. (I do know, however that the references are not in The Golden Ass, but in the literature titles I just mentioned as the fact remains that The Golden Ass precedes them by many centuries. Still we must remember that all that is past possess the present!) It's interesting to note that Sancho Panza rode a donkey and Lucius is turned into a donkey. (As is Bottom's head from a Midsummer Night's Dream, but that's another story.) But the most fascinating connection between the two literary masterpieces is the practice of the scapegoat. "As I walked hesitantly towards the bush, a young man who must have been the owner of the vegetable patch ran angrily at me with a big stick. He beat me so hard in revenge for the damage I had done that he might have killed me if I had not had the sense to defend myself by raising my rump and letting out with my hind legs" (76). Scenes such as these riddle the 940 page monstrosity that is Don Quixote. Every other chapter depicts the brutal beating of either Don Quixote, his squire, or both. Someone is always running at the pair with a big stick for some offense that Don Quixote unknowingly committed. And as the reader continues to read The Golden Ass, Lucius does not go unscathed and without many beatings. Vale.


Fotis speaks to Lucius: "You come from a noble family, and you have a noble soul, and you are already initiated into various religious mysteries" (63). This line caught my eye and immediately brought the Eleusinian Mysteries to mind. It was important to have some kind of lineage and a good family background to be the privileged few to witness such mysteries. Festivals that centered around rites and ceremonies within the community were revelries to certain gods, but certainly not private. What was so secret about that? I'm not sure what Fotis speaks about. She is trying to talk herself into telling Lucius the secret of her mistress, but the standards she sets are unfamiliar to me. I guess that's why they call them mysteries.

Playing with fire

Our dear friend Lucius knows how to get himself into trouble. He is drawn to the very thing that is the object of so many of his woes later down the road. "But I was naturally adventurous, and as soon as Byrrhaena mentioned the black art, which always held a peculiar attraction for me, so far from feeling inclined to be on my guard against Pamphile I had an irresistible impulse to study magic under her, however much money it might cost me, and take a running leap into the dark abyss (mis-en-abym) against which I had been warned. My mind had taken fire" (29). This reminds me of another character that dabbled in practices that should be better left alone. Victor Frankenstein anyone? "What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene, it all opened upon me at once: the information I had obtained was of a nature rather to direct my endeavours so soon as I should point them towards the object of my search than to exhibit that object already accomplished" (38). What is most interesting, besides the ominous presence of magic in both passages, is the commonality of such foolish obsessions with the unknown, and the result of following such an obsession. While Lucius's story seems to take a comic path, while Frankenstein's is destined for the dark shade of tragedy, both men must suffer tribulations before the last word is written.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Have you ever?

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you went against your parent's wishes and did it anyway? The need was just too great. Their cautionary words never even penetrated your reckless thoughts. Maybe it was a dare or a purchase that was really out of your price range. And so, with a last look at the parent's worried face, Phaeton sets out to ride his father's sun chariot. Oh, wait, did you think I was really talking about you? But it doesn't matter because the old mantra of class is 'all that is past possesses the present.' This is a story that you can find in any newspaper in the country. Headline: teenager crashes car, 1 fatality. It is tragedy. An entire family is shaken. Now in Phaeton's case, his actions affect more than his immediate family, but the sorrow and grief are still there. His sisters turn into popular trees out of their grief. No word on how the parents take it. But we know the earth cries out as Phaeton's burning cargo scorches her face. She pleads to let her death end quickly. That's in today's headlines as well - Global Warming. Okay that was a stretch, but you get the picture. Story is everywhere. In last semester's class with Prof. Sexson our theme was all 'literature is displaced myth.' I see it in all of life. Equally beautiful, equally tragic.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Notes for April 6th Test

From Ovid...
Acteon - stag
Arachne - spider
Tiresias - man to woman to man
Atalanta - lion
Myrrha - tree (which gave birth to Adonis)
Pentheus - boar
Adonis - windflower
Narcissus - narcissus flower
Midos - ass's ears
Niobe - weeping stone
Calisto - bear constellation
4 Ages - Gold, Silver, Brass, Iron

1. flyting? - colorful verbal argument
2. Tally? broken coin from Plato's symposium and Aristophanes
3. Know story of Echo
4. What two characters models for Romeo & Juliet? - Pyramus & Thisbe
5. Name three symposium characters and their speeches on love.
6. Tragedy - goat song, comedy - revel song
7. metempsychosis? - transmigration of souls
8. catharsis? - purging of emotions (specifically pity and fear)
9. According to Trojan Women what is the worst? - sacrifice of a child
10. obscene? off stage
11. New comedy vs. Old comedy - marriage, feast, dancing
12. Animnesis? - Plato's theory of forgotten knowledge
13. According to Prof. Sexson reincarnation thought of as metaphor or poetic thought
14. What gift did Paris choose among those the goddesses offered? Helen/most beautiful
15. What character symbolizes reconciliation in Lysistrata? naked woman
16. Diff. between Sophocles and Euripides tragedy? formal truth vs. emotional truth
17. tragedy deals with individual, comedy centered around society/community
18. parabasis? - abuse of audience
19. What was the captured women's fate after a lost war? - slave or concubine
20. phallocentrism? domination of a culture by male point of view
21. Aristotle saw tragedy as perfect form of literature (not too short, not too long)
22. Plato - beauty - shoulder blade itches - wings
23. nostos? homecoming
24. once something said, can not be taken back (note gods and Tiresias story)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ovid's Metaphors

"As he saw the sisters running./Now his bellow/Was as homicidal/ As it was anguished./ He came after them and they/ Who had been running seemed to be flying./ And suddenly they were flying." pg 228

It is important to note the metamorphosis, even when it is in the language. - when a simile becomes a metaphor. But why is this important? It is commonly known that a metaphor is more powerful. It makes a statement. It is the beautiful elegant sister compared to poor simile. Simile, the younger sister always living in metaphor's shadow. When Ovid transitions from simile to metaphor, he is constructing his world out of valuable material.

I found a passage out of Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being that was quite meaningful. "Tomas did not realize at the time that metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with. A single metaphor can give birth to love." pg 11

I liked this idea that metaphors give birth because that means they are life giving. Similes are restrained to the words like or as. But metaphors are bound by no two words. A metaphor can change one thing into another. The metaphor is at the heart of Ovid's Metamorphosis. It is the very thing that makes such remarkable transformations possible. That is why it is so vitally important.