Notes on Helen

The following notes and questions are derived in response to Emily Wilson's introduction to her translation of Helen, collected in The Greek Plays, edited by Mary Lefkowitz and James Romm (Modern Library 2017)

  • It appears that Euripides was the only tragedian to present Helen in a drama.
  • Is the drama Helen, even properly categorized as a tragedy?
  • Compare the status of Helen with Antigone, Andromache, or Medea.
  • Why is the drama set in Egypt?
  • Why does Euripides present such a strong escape action?
  • Is the play concerned with issues of justice? If yes, how so?
  • Compare the plot of Helen with Iphigenia in Tauris.
  • Would the plot make a good Hollywood screenplay? Consider the elements: a traveler, a hostile foreign king, a lost-love in danger, a ruse to escape, a chase scene, a messenger's flashback, and divine intervention.
  • Is Helen really a sequel to material familiar to his audience?
  • Is the presence of a phantom Helen at odds with the heroicism of Homer's version?
  • Compare how Aristophanes takes on the project of anti-war drama with Lysistrata within the same year.
  • Does Euripides make Helen the new Penelope?
  • Does this drama mark a change in emphasis from the order of the city to the order of the household?

Lit 21 Summer 2018

Ready to get started! Here is our reading schedule for the Summer:

June 5 Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

        New domesticity and the focus on family dynamics in fiction.

June 12 Naomi Alderman, The Power

       The role of speculative fiction in representations of gender.

June 19 Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

        Recasting the historical epic through Japanese Korean culture.

June 26 John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

        Utilizing genre fiction to directly engage the subject mental illness .

July 3 Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling

        Redefining the stakes and boundaries of new culture wars.

July 10 Jeffrey Eugenides, Fresh Complaint

        Re-examining the short story in contemporary fiction in the absence of theme.

July 17 Ali Smith, Winter

        Allegory and the fantastic at the edges of the novel.

July 24 George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

        The state of the "experimental novel" and traditional notions of the "in between."


Fall 2018 Reading List

Hello all and thanks for such an enjoyable and enriching semester. Many thanks for your generosity!

Following is the reading list for Fall 2018 with recommended editions and translations:

  1. Euripides, Ion, Helen, Orestes, trans. Svarlien (Hackett)
  2. Dante, Paradiso, trans. Hollander (Anchor)
  3. Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, ed. Mowat (Folger)
  4. Eliot, Adam Bede, ed. Reynolds (Penguin Classics)
  5. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, ed. Strachey (Norton)
  6. Kerouac, On the Road, (Penguin)
  7. Allende, The House of the Spirits (Atria)
  8. Morrison, Love (Vintage)