by Kate Finster
“Through consistent, respectful, and ethical dialogue — both verbal and written — we will work together to build a learning a learning community, we will study sex and gender in Ancient Greek literature and material culture in order to develop an understanding of these historical constructions and the ways that they inform our lived experiences today. We will analyze how media simultaneously represents and constructs ideas about sex and gender. We will practice identifying and questioning our own assumptions and recognizing our own biases and prejudices. We will construct our own stories in relationship to those we study, amplifying subaltern and oppressed perspectives in order to produce empowering scholarship and create links between academics and activism.”
In re-examining the course aims, I feel that we as a group certainly built a learning community and effectively developed our understanding of sex and gender in Ancient Greek literature and material culture. By showing up to class every week fully prepared and ready to discuss the workshop with my group, I believe I consistently worked toward the aim of constructing an engaged learning community. Out of all my courses this semester, the readings from this course interested me the most, so I was always motivated to take notes and complete the assigned readings before the seminar. Even the longer assignments, such as the Iliad and Odyssey, I was able to access via audiobook, making them easier to break up into segments and complete while I was driving or walking. In our seminar meetings, our dialogue was certainly consistent, respectful, and ethical. I thought that the community was incredibly attuned to the different perspectives and backgrounds present in the group, which meant that discussion always included criticism of the text’s problematic elements.
In addition, I feel that I have a greater understanding of how Ancient Greek sex and gender practices influenced modern culture. The texts and workshops that cemented this understanding for me were the “Lesbians Are from Lesbos: Sappho and Identity Construction in The Ladder” and Plato’s Symposium. Through the Daughters of Bilitis, I learned how Sappho was re-contextualized in 20th century America by lesbians, and how she became such an icon of ancient Greek sexuality. Plato’s Symposium was a text I had never read before that portrayed such an engaging philosophical conversation on love that the ideas discussed still resonated deeply today. Finally, I felt the counter-storytelling narratives were the most central to the aims of this course and the final products wove a layered mosaic amplifying subaltern voices ignored in the readings. I loved reading each student’s contribution—they were creative yet also conveyed a strong criticism of shortcomings and problematic elements present in the text.
The personal goals for the course I wrote down in my notebook were:
- Learn more about how ancient Greek gender and sexuality influenced modern beliefs/norms. What practices/belief systems are valuable enough that we should implement them into modern life? What can we take away as valuable lessons?
- Foster creativity in projects and assignments (don’t just go the easy route).
As I look at my own course aims, I certainly worked towards them and even excelled beyond them. The second aim, to apply my creativity to the Pressbooks, I feel I especially thrived in. No other course I was in encouraged me to approach assignments creatively, so it was enjoyable to have an outlet in which to experiment. Even when the final product didn’t turn out like I imagined, for instance in the Sappho Pressbook, I still enjoyed the process of researching, designing, and drafting, as a way of engaging with different perspectives regarding the material.
This course taught me to consider counter-storytelling as a device for all Ancient Greek texts I interact with in the future. Indeed, the theoretical frameworks of GSAG are concepts I will apply to all courses and readings going forward. I wish more courses emphasized this critical approach, as it effectively blends creative and reflective academic assignments. In conclusion, this course dramatically improved my online semester—I looked forward to the community and our workshops every Tuesday. I am so grateful we were able to explore gender and sexuality in a place that felt safe and comfortable for everyone to be their fullest selves. I greatly enjoyed the readings and discussions, and my knowledge of Ancient Greece has certainly increased tenfold. The most important part of this reflection is that I feel proud of the work we did, individually and collectively, to center learning and community during a semester characterized by uncertainty and burnout. Thank you so much, Jody, for leading the group with so much compassion, insight, and humor every week.