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Felson, N.R. (2016). Appropriating Ancient Greek Myths: Strategies and Caveats. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 17(2):126-131.

(2016). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 17(2):126-131

Appropriating Ancient Greek Myths: Strategies and Caveats

Nancy R. Felson, Ph.D.

In her essay on Medusa (this issue) Doris Silverman proposes an anthropological reading of the myth in its times. She argues for its utility in psychoanalytic practice as a myth that illuminates the mother-daughter dynamic. She claims to be delving into the history of females at the time the myth became established and elaborated but mistakenly assigns the myth, which first appeared in art and literature of the Archaic Period (800–480 B.C.E.), to the Classical Period (480–323 B.C.E.). This error undermines the entire anthropological section of her article. Silverman’s essay moved me, as a classicist, to propose that anyone attempting to appropriate classical myths for psychoanalytic insight and practice (a) specify the version being analyzed and the context, if known, in which the myth arose or later resurfaced; (b) use classical scholarship on that myth judiciously; (c) avoid reductionism and over-generalization (e.g., “Greek women”); and (d) use clues or gaps within the text as a basis for subversive readings. With these cautionary strategies and caveats in mind, I pondered how a classicist and psychoanalyst might join forces, creatively and meaningfully, in an effort to fathom, animate, and appropriate ancient mythic figures and their stories.

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