“Antigone Rising” by Helen Morales


Thanks to Headline and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

I was really excited to read this book when I first heard about it. I am currently doing my Masters in Classical Studies and I teach it at High School level too so anything which prompts deeper thinking or poses interesting questions I am 100% here for.

The book is split into eight chapters covering topics ranging from violence against women, war, dieting and body image, gender fluidity and…Beyonce. So far, so interesting.

The book starts by highlighting some of the current discourse around who “owns” Classics. I confess I find this old chestnut slightly irksome. Do we have to “own” something to be interested in and enjoy it? There seems to be a lot of handwringing about this issue and my view is if people think a group of old white men own Classics, well they do not. Just take it. I don’t understand this obsession with having to make ourselves part of something to truly appreciate it. I believe passionately that everyone can and should access the Classics but “owning” or “reclaiming” it is completely counterproductive and really rather pointless. No one is stopping anyone studying Classics, take your place at the table and get on with it.

Ok rant over.

So, there are some interesting themes explored here which link with some of the main social justice discourses of the present day. The chapter on misogyny was quite interesting but I am not sure if we can compare the attitudes of the ancient world to those of today in any meaningful way. There seems to be a suggestion that the violence that continues to influence Western culture today is as a result of ancient attitudes. I’m not sure this blame can be laid against Ancient Greece and Rome being that violence against women exists in all cultures and societies. Ho hum.

The Hippocrates chapter was interesting and raised questions that I had never really considered before. The Lysistrata chapter was also really thought provoking and when I watched Chi-Raq the next day I felt reading this chapter gave me a deeper insight into what its message was.

I thought the fawning Beyonce chapter was an absolute nonsense. The Beyonce Kool Aid had been well and truly drunk. Is Beyonce an interesting and creative woman? Yes, undoubtedly. Is she a staggering creative and intellectual genius? Well…no. Sorry Beyhive but no. This kind of fawning adulation of the 1% just leaves me completely cold.

I thought some chapters worked better than others but I was left with the sense that there is nothing really new being said here and some arguments were a stretch to say the least. I wish there had been a more balanced analysis of myths in their original context to flesh things out a bit. A reader would have to be reasonably familiar with some of the background to the Classical references made to fully appreciate some of the arguments.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, I started out rather sceptical, but I’d say I was a convert by the end. Mostly.

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