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Elizabeth Cook’s Achilles: women’s writing of classical reception and feminism

Toney, Polly (2012)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Elizabeth Cook’s Achilles raises important questions about the relationship between the woman writer and the classical canon on account of her gender, as well as the way in which restrictive representations of gender can be subverted through classical reception. These concerns bring Cook’s novella in line with comparable feminist and gender theory and it is this relationship between theory and literary practice that my study addresses, with an eye to assessing the way in which Cook’s work could provide useful for feminist politics and activism. Undermining gender essentialism, wherein the type of body that you have dictates what you can do, Cook expands upon Statius’ account in the Achilleid of Achilles’ girlhood on Skiros. Then refusing to engage with literary narratives of Helen’s blame, Cook instead directs attention to an earlier episode in her biography, her rape by Theseus. This sickening tale of abuse lays the moral foundation on which the other episodes of sexual violence related by Cook can be read. Targets of contemporary feminist activism, so-called ‘rape myths’ are held up to scrutiny by Cook, validating the expectation of certain feminist theorists that mis-readings of rape will only be rectified via the female voice.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity
Subjects:D051 Ancient History
HM Sociology
PA Classical philology
PN0080 Criticism
PN0441 Literary History
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3443
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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