by Miranda Mattlin
For my final reflection, I was having trouble wording my thoughts on the past several months of class in a way that didn’t feel empty or obligatory, but I also didn’t have any grand creative ideas, or the mental space to pull them off. I decided to pick out a couple words/phrases/themes from my class notes or study group throughout the semester and do a little word-association kind of freewrite with everything we’ve learned in mind.
“enriching the study” – counternarratives fulfilling work that hasn’t been done before that should be done, what are your contributions doing in the field, what is the point of studying something like the Classics and how can enriching your study of the Classics enrich the field
“self-reflect as a member of the community” – being an individual and a part of a collective at the same time, holding yourself accountable, knowing when it’s time to push yourself and when to sit back
“patriarchy frames relations as hierarchies” – because of hierarchy we’ve inherited the idea of hierarchy, what do our brains naturally do and how can we deconstruct that, how do we understand power relations in these texts and what do they teach us about power relations in that society, especially with gender coming into play
“proximity to Zeus” – like the women who try to do their best to rise within the expectations the patriarchy allows for them and succeed but only serve to advance the patriarchy, the goddesses become powerful in proximity to Zeus. but so do the gods, so does everyone, so in some ways it’s not about gender but really it is because Zeus is very much a man
“muse” – the male elite authors and community speakers validating each other and the men praised for authorship vs. the inspiration they credited to the muse, the women whose pain brought forth the stories they tell
“except we’re not actually sure” – what can we talk about when we don’t know anything? we don’t know how much of our ideas of Mycenean culture are based in falsified artefacts and even once we know they’re fake, we can’t fully let go of the idea that they felt true. but if we can’t be sure of anything, we can discuss everything we’re unsure of anyway
“force” – the gendering of force, the use of force in sexuality, the force of a narrative, the force of history changing the way we perceive that narrative
“acknowledging the sadness” – the genuine human emotional consequence and the expression of trauma in the Iliad and the Odyssey, the real life trauma experienced by the people who would have heard these stories told and related to them like we would a sitcom about college students, the people lost to history and the ones who mourned them, the stories never told, the feelings not put into words, feelings felt across hundreds of years, historical empathy
“violence as consequence” – the generational passing down of violence, violence taken and violence given, necessary consequences and violence for violence’s sake, violence as the primary form of exchange in the Classical texts, violence as consequence of violence, violence never thought to be violent and nonviolence called violence for violent purposes
“sexy sexy Calypso cave description” – the real live human feelings embedded in the text that make it alive, the sexual innuendos that birthed our ideas of sexuality over hundreds of years of translation, the sexualization of the earth and the colonization of nature, the ability of a text to physically reflect its larger meaning, and a reminder that casually modern takes on Classical texts are just as valid and worthwhile and justified and clever as academic papers
“continuum of difference” – what we can see and what we can’t see like in a spectrum of light, what we can and cannot label, the tools to control people we exert like reflexes, the vilification of difference and the real-world costs of difference within that system
“innocent girl / scary man” – the tropes that get distilled down over hundreds of years and still ring true, the truth in expressions of humor and lightheartedness, is this something we innately feel for some reason or did we pass it down to each other like generational trauma?
“in itself is sufficient” – if it feels real to you then it is, and nobody knows that much more than you about texts from hundreds and hundreds of years ago no matter how much they think they do. your experience may not be transmutable to others or justified by evidence but if you resonate with it that’s real enough
“five glasses of wine in, one pretty flute girl sent away, and we’ve got it” – shoutout to Peeper for this iconic quote that I immediately wrote down because not only is it funny, but it perfectly encapsulates the Symposium. hundreds of years of literary and philosophical and historical discussion uplifting this text and it’s the equivalent of me (legally!) drunk writing in my notes app “List of Actors who Haven’t Been on a Ryan Murphy show but have Ryan Murphy show energy: David Harbour” and deciding my mental work is genius. also, how do we perceive substances and partying in association with eliteness and intelligence now vs. how do we uplift it in the symposium?
“contribute” – what does it mean to be in a class like this, a community and a space like this? what do we offer each other, and ourselves, by doing the work and expression our thoughts and by listening? what do we leave here with? what do we leave each other with? what are we giving? what are we making? what are we grateful for?