Top Ten Tuesday: Literature You Should Read If You Love Ancient Greece & Rome

toptentuesday1

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

I know it’s Wednesday, but I couldn’t resist participating in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, even if it is belatedly! This meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is about literature every [blank] should read, inserting the blank for whatever our hearts desire. I was originally going to title this post, “Literature Every Classics Major Should Read,” but let’s face it, we already have!

As many of you might know, I majored in Pre- and Early-Modern Literature at University of California, Santa Cruz, and minored in Classical History. I am absolutely obsessed with ancient Greek and Roman texts and have read these epics, plays, and essays multiple times. But even if you never studied these in college, you can consider them the best starter course into this fascinating period of history.

This blog post is also perfect timing, considering that I only have one month left (!) before I’m traveling to Greece and Italy to walk the lands where these amazing philosophers, dramatists, and oral historians once lived! To say I’m excited is a huge understatement!

Classics Collage

  1. Iliad by Homer
  2. Odyssey by Homer
  3. Aeneid by Virgil
  4. Art of Love by Ovid
  5. Symposium by Plato (Be sure to watch “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a theater production/film that has a song about this story!)
  6. Medea by Euripides
  7. Bacchae by Euripides
  8. Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and Eumenides) by Aeschylus
  9. Three Theban Plays (Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone) by Sophocles
  10. Lysistrata by Aristophanes

(Side note: As a former scholar, I’m not a fan of using articles in these titles. If you want to sound sophisticated, refer to Homer’s Iliad rather than The Iliad by Homer. After all, it’s an epic that’s part of an oral tradition, not a novel!)

So are you interested in the tales of ancient Greece and Rome? Which of these have you read, and what did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Books With Characters Who Commit Infidelity

Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is pretty much a free-for-all, since the topic is “Top ten books which features characters who…” and it’s up to us bloggers to finish the sentence.

Why did I pick the oh-so-controversial subject of adultery? Because my first thought turned to English class during my junior year of high school, the theme of which I had dubbed, “Women who cheat on their husbands.” Not all the required reading fit into this category, but a whole lot of it did.

Call me a harlot if you want, but there’s something so captivating about women trapped in loveless marriages and seeking passion outside of them. Many of these novels were written during historical periods in which it was taboo for women of a certain age to be unwed, and I don’t blame these characters for rebelling against the prison that society coerced them in. No one gave the husbands any grief for cheating, so I say down with the double standard!

Thus, here are my top ten books with characters (both men and women!) who commit infidelity:

TTT Cheaters 1

TTT Cheaters 2

Women Who Have Wandered

1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Men with Mistresses

6. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
7. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
8. Medea by Euripides

Classic Cheaters I Need to Read

9. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
10. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Top Ten Literary Characters I’d Like to Check in With

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

Have you ever wondered what certain literary characters are up to nowadays? How did their lives turn out after they conquered that villain or got married? Even when we get to “The End,” we know that it’s only the beginning for the stories we don’t get the privilege to read.

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, discusses which literary characters we’d most like to check in with. It’s like when you run into someone from school you haven’t talked to in forever, and you both agree to grab coffee sometime, but you never do, because let’s face it, neither of you is really that interested. Instead, in this case, you genuinely care what these characters have been doing all this time!

To get right to it, here are the top ten literary characters I’d like to check in with:

Ladies Bouncing Back from Bad Situations

 

 

1. Daisy from The Great Gatsby
2. Jane from Jane Eyre
3. Medea from Euripides’ Medea
4. Violet from A Series of Unfortunate Events

Happily Ever After?

 

5. The All-American Girls
6. Mia from The Princess Diaries
7. Lyra and Will from His Dark Materials

Growing Up in Their Golden Ages

8. The Ringbearers from The Lord of the Rings

9. Artemis from Artemis Fowl

10. The students of Hogwarts from Harry Potter

Top Ten Favorite Literary Heroines

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is about–as Beyoncé puts it–who run the world. That’s right: GIRLS! Here are my top ten favorite literary heroines: from the fierce young ladies of our beloved YA series to the villains you always secretly admired, there are so many women in books who kick ass and take names.

They’ve battled everything and then some, including:

  • Crappy husbands
  • Dementors
  • Armored polar bears
  • Judgmental societies
  • Crazy ex-wives in attics
  • And, of course, the patriarchy

So check out my list below, and let me know who your favorite literary heroines are in the comments!

Young-Adult Do-Gooders

1. Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series

2. Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series

3. Violet Baudelaire from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Classic-Lit Women Up Against the Odds

4. Jane Eyre from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

5. Hester Prynne from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

6. Edna Pontellier from Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

7. Offred from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

8. Penelope from Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad

Anti-Heroines You Love to Hate

9. Lady Macbeth from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

10. Medea from Euripides’ Medea

Masterpiece Monday: Medea

Cover of "Medea (Dover Thrift Editions)"

Cover of Medea (Dover Thrift Editions)

Rating: 5 out of 5

I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to blog much last week, but I was celebrating my upcoming graduation with my grad school girlfriends in Las Vegas! I had such an amazing time, and after staying up all night, I have a serious case of the Mondays. But at least it’s Masterpiece Monday!

So Mother’s Day is this weekend, and I’ve been finding it difficult to find really good mothers in classic literature. Most women hundreds of years ago had children out of obligation rather than choice. Just look at The Awakening and Madame Bovary, for example. However, I’d much rather discuss probably the worst literary mother: Medea.

Medea was first produced by the ancient Greek tragedian Euripides in 431 BCE. It tells the tale of Medea, a barbarian woman from Colchis known for witchcraft. She married Jason, hero with the Golden Fleece, and traveled to Corinth. There, Jason falls in love with a princess named Glauce, daughter of King Creon. Interested in joining a royal family, Jason tosses Medea aside.

In a fit of unparalleled revenge, Medea murders Glauce and Creon with poisoned robes. Not satisfied, she decides to bring complete ruin to her husband by killing her own two children. She declares that she hates Jason more than she loves her progeny.

Surprisingly, Medea is not punished by the gods for her actions. The sun god Helios carries her and her sons’ bodies to Athens as the play ends. The chorus breaks into song frequently throughout the production, contemplating the morality of Medea’s actions, but it’s up to the audience to form their own conclusions.

As for this reader, I absolutely love Medea. Compared to Sophocles and Aeschylus, Euripides is such a bad-ass. He often writes about powerful women, including Helen, Andromache, and Hecuba, placing them as the stars in his tragedies.

His plays are also the most violent of the three playwrights: My second-favorite work of his, Bacchae, narrates a young man ripped from limb to limb by his own mother in an ectastic, orgiastic episode. All of this occurs at the hands of the vindictive god Dionysus.

Obviously, Euripides is an acquired taste, and may not suit prim-and-proper readers. But he manages to contrast gritty, brutal themes with beautiful writing. It’s a shame that there are so many texts of his that remain lost or in fragments.

So why do I love Medea? She’s the quintessential figure behind the saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Because she has semi-supernatural powers and is a foreigner, she is not chained to Greek mores. She suffered through a tremendous betrayal and finds the perfect way to get back at her scumbag of a spouse. She realizes that killing him would be too easy; it’s much crueler to kill his loved ones and force him to live with his guilt.

Do I think she’s a good role model? Of course not. Are her actions justified? I think so, but that’s for you to decide. If you’re interested in reading Greek literature, leave your Judeo-Christian notions behind and open your mind to an entirely different way of thinking. If you can do that, you might just find yourself enjoying some of the most celebrated, intellectually rewarding pieces of literature in the entire world.

Feel free to share your thoughts about Medea or just give a shout-out to your favorite literary mothers! And don’t forget to call your real one on Sunday!

Favorite Quotes: 

“This I say, that those who have never had children, who know nothing of it, in happiness have the advantage over those who are parents” – Chorus, lines 1090-1095

“Let no one think me a weak one, feeble-spirited, a stay-at-home, but rather just the opposite, one who can hurt my enemies and help my friends; for the lives of such persons are most remembered” – Medea, lines 805-810

Reasons Why You Need to Read

Read the Rainbow…

Now chances are, if you read my blog, you like to read. So I know I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I just finished teaching a summer SAT prep class today, and the #1 thing I tell my students is to READ. If you don’t read, start, and if you do read, do it more! Nothing makes me sadder than when I ask people, “What’s your favorite book?” and they say, “I don’t know.” Not in a “I don’t know, because there’s so many to choose from!” kind of way, but in a “I don’t know, because the last things I read were the headlines of TMZ and the nutritional facts on my Cheerios box” kind of way.

So if you’re not equally as depressed as I am by the lack of bookworms in our world, here’s some reasons why you should read the good stuff:

  1. You learn new words. Do you know what a coquette is? How about a misanthropist? Has anyone called you bonny, ignoble, lachrymose, or sanguine? If you think I’m just making words up right now, then your vocab could use some work. I learned all these terms while reading Wuthering Heights a few years ago–and yes, before you ask, I kept a running list of all the words I didn’t know and looked them up in the dictionary. The document is still on my computer, ready whenever I need a quick review. Nerdy? Yes, but you’re just jaundiced.
  2. You learn about history. I never remember historical events like I remember the authors who wrote about them. Ancient Greece? Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides. Victorian England? Dickins. 1920s? Hemingway and Fitzgerald. I wouldn’t understand the Renaissance or the World Wars nearly as much if it wasn’t for my connection to the stories representing them.
  3. You learn about true emotion. If you think “The Bachelor” is an accurate representation of true love, then you are a pitiful human being. The literary classics are classic precisely because their themes are just as important now as they were back then. I’m a big crybaby, and no star-crossed lovers can match Catherine and Heathcliff, or Newland and Countess Olenska. No pain is more heart-wrenching than in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. You can’t even say you know what a woman scorned looks like until you read Medea. So if you’re one of those people who gets their drama fix from Jerry Springer, this blog is not for you.

Naturally, there are dozens more reasons out there, but it’s getting late, and I’d rather just let you add to the list! What did I leave out?

Oh, and if you thought I’d give you the definitions of those words, sorry! That would take all the fun out of it! Now get off your butt, grab a book, and READ!!!