Bowdoin Reads

Professor Watterson is reading...

Greek gods, human lives : what we can learn from myths
by Mary Lefkowitz

The past is a foreign country. One side of the culture wars sees "otherness" almost exclusively in terms of contemporary ideas and/or patterns regarding race, gender, class, and sexual preference, but as Mary Lefkowitz demonstrates, Greek myths dating back to Homer and beyond in many ways comprise a more complex and nuanced view of human identity vis a vis the gods: They enable us as onlookers to place ourselves in the world, and to get a sense of what we may reasonably expect in the course of our lives. Suffering and hardship cannot be avoided; death is inevitable; virtue is not always rewarded. Justice may not be done in the short run, although eventually wrongs will be righted, even if many innocent people will suffer. There is no hope of universal redemption, no sense that in the future victims of the terrible action of the drama will receive any recompense for their suffering. Without god or gods, there is only "self,' self,' self" as Zenobia says in The Blithedale Romance. But the gods of Greek myth, who did not create a world designed to make us happy, do not diminish our humanity. They enhance it by virtue of their mysteriousness.

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