The End of the Silence of the Girls. Female Rewritings of Ancient Myths

13 april 2023
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Unlike holy texts such as the Bible, Greek myths have always been extremely flexible and open to all kinds of rewriting. Recent years have witnessed a notable surge of rewritings of female characters, largely by female authors. Scholar Jacqueline Klooster and author Natalie Haynes will jointly reflect on this phenomenon on Thursday April 13th, 5PM at SPUI25.


Circe, The Silence of the Girls, Stone Blind and Ariadne all are recent novels that deal with the theme of women’s experience in Greek mythology, told by female characters — and mostly also by female authors. Where did this sudden interest in rewriting myth from a female perspective emerge from? And why is it so hugely successful, given the popular reception of these novels? Can this tell us something about our own world, about the ancient texts, or both?

These questions will be discussed in a fascinating combination of theory and practice, by Jacqueline Klooster, who is currently working on a study of female rewritings of Greek myth, and Natalie Haynes, herself author of such novels. Klooster will examine a number of intriguing novels and place them against the backdrop of the ancient texts they are based on. Haynes will talk about her new novel Stone Blind, published in Dutch as De blik van Medusa. Medusa is one of the most recognisable figures in Greek myth: her face has stared out at us for millennia, from Agamemnon’s shield in the Iliad to Versace’s logo now. Gorgons and gorgon heads were an enormously popular feature on ancient statues and temples. This raises the question whether Medusa really always was the terrifying monster we now perceive her as, or whether time and re-telling has made her into that. Natalie Haynes takes you on a fast-paced tour through the history of Medusa and shows you how to survive contact with someone who can turn you to stone with just a glance.

About the speakers

Jacqueline Klooster is a lecturer of Ancient Greek at Groningen University. She has recently been awarded a LIRA grant for the writing of a book on the topic of retellings of ancient myth from a female perspective.

Natalie Haynes is a writer and broadcaster. She is the author of The Amber Fury, The Children of Jocasta and A Thousand Ships, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. Her most recent novel is Stone Blind. Her non-fiction book, Pandora’s Jar, was a bestseller in both the UK and the US. She has written and performed eight series of her show on BBC Radio 4: ‘Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics’.

Read an excerpt from De blik van Medusa, the Dutch translation of Stone Blind.

Irene de Jong (moderator) is emeritus professor of Ancient Greek literature at the University of Amsterdam. She has published widely on Greek narrative texts, most notably Homer and Herodotus, and is editor of a multi-volume history of ancient Greek narrative published by Brill.

pro-mbooks1 : athenaeum