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Conference: Bestselling Muses: Current popular retellings of Greek and Roman myth from a female perspective

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Anyone walking into a bookshop these days cannot avoid it: for the past three years or so, the bestseller tables have invariably been stacked high with books like Ariadne, Elektra, Atalanta (Saint), Pandora’s Jar, Stone Blind, Divine Might (Haynes), The Song of Achilles, Circe (Miller), Daughters of Sparta, The Shadow Of Perseus (Heywood), Psyche and Eros (McNamara) and many other retellings of ancient myths. Via book tok, instagram and goodreads as well, Clytaemnestras, Helens and Medusas are storming the bestseller lists with the help of their fan base of mostly (very) young female readers. One thing these books have in common: they retell the well-known stories of antiquity from a female perspective, and often with a noticeably feminist slant.

What is going on? Is this a new phenomenon? Why are feminism and antiquity a logical combination? How did so many authors suddenly come up with this idea? And why do so many readers want more of this? How does this trend relate to such disparate phenomena as de-colonialism, fan fiction and science fiction? These are among the questions this conference aims to answer, looking at ancient myths, modern authors; readers and their experiences, and the fascinating phenomenon of retelling more generally.


26 October 2023, 9:00-19:00 CET
09:00-09:30: Welcome and opening Susanna de Beer (KNIR), Jacqueline Klooster (Groningen)


Panel 1 Theory and Practice, Chair Jacqueline Klooster
09:30-10:15: ‘New Artists, Ancient Masters’: Practices and Principles of Re-Telling, Maarten Depourcq (Nijmegen)
10:15-11:00: Not A Muse(d): women writers and the Classics in the 20th Century, Elena Theodorakopoulos (Birmingham)
11:00-11:15: Break


Panel 2 Retellings beyond the Popular Novel, Chair Emily Hauser
11:15-12:00: Daughters in Metamorphosis. Classical Myths, Traumas and Translingual Imaginations in Elena Ferrante, Jhumpa Lahiri and Igiaba Scego Tiziana de Rogatis (Siena Unistrasi)
12:00-12:45: Contemporary Medeas in France, Fiona Cox (Exeter)
12:45-14:00: Lunch


Panel 3: YA Literature and Retellings, Chair Maarten Depourcq
14:00-14:45: Persephone: The Limits of Girl Power in Young Adult Literature, Evelien Bracke (Ghent)
14:45-15:30: Establishing Agency while preserving Mythic Connections. Introducing Hera to the YA Audience, Amy Arezzolo (New England, Australia)
15:30-15:45: Break


Panel 4 Homeric Retellings 1, Chair Fiona Cox
15:45-16:30: ‘I stepped into those woods and my life began’: Ecofeminist approaches to Madeline Miller’s Circe, Alexandra Meghji (UC London)
16:30-17:00: Short break


27 October, 9:00-16:30 CET
Panel 5 Homeric Retellings II, Chair Elena Theodorakopoulos
09:00-09:45: Lost Lacunae: The Absence of Positive Female Relationships in Mythical Retellings, Mallory Fitzpatrick (Bryn Mawr College)
09:45-10:30: Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Victims and Culprits, Lena Linne (Bochum)
10:30-11:15: Women Writing Rapists: Toxic Masculinity and Narrative Power in the Contemporary Retellings of the Troy Myth, Elina Pyy (Finland Institute Rome)
11:15-11:30: Break


Panel 6: The Marketable and Mediatic Muse, Chair Evelien Bracke
11:30-12:15: A Community of Muses: Greco-Roman Mythology, Fan Readers and Fan Writers,  Amanda Potter (OU and Liverpool)
12:15-13:00:  #mythologyretellings: Social Media and Popular Retellings of Ancient Myths, Philomena Wolf (Freiburg)
13:00-14:00: Lunch
14:00-14:45: Sanitisation and Fetishisation: Greek Myth designed for Mass Marketability, Alex MacFarlane (Birmingham)
14:45-15:30: The Palimpsestic Popular Muse: Poetics of the current Retellings of ancient myths, Jacqueline Klooster (Groningen)
15:30-15:45: Break
15:45-16:30: Wrapping up


© image (square): Jacqueline Klooster
© image (banner): https://thefantasyreviews.com/2023/02/16/22-popular-greek-myth-retellings/