Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation

Paperback | September 30, 2015

byRuby Blondell

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Ancient Greek culture is pervaded by a profound ambivalence regarding female beauty. It is an awe-inspiring, supremely desirable gift from the gods, essential to the perpetuation of a man's name through reproduction; yet it also grants women terrifying power over men, posing a threatinseparable from its allure. The myth of Helen is the central site in which the ancient Greeks expressed and reworked their culture's anxieties about erotic desire. Despite the passage of three millennia, contemporary culture remains almost obsessively preoccupied with all the power and danger offemale beauty and sexuality that Helen still represents. Yet Helen, the embodiment of these concerns for our purported cultural ancestors, has been little studied from this perspective. Such issues are also central to contemporary feminist thought. Helen of Troy engages with the ancient origins of the persistent anxiety about female beauty, focusing on this key figure from ancient Greek culture in a way that both extends our understanding of that culture and provides a useful perspective for reconsidering aspects of our own. Moving from Homerand Hesiod to Sappho, Aeschylus, and Euripides, Ruby Blondell offers a fresh examination of the paradoxes and ambiguities that Helen embodies. In addition to literary sources, Blondell considers the archaeological record, which contains evidence of Helen's role as a cult figure, worshipped bymaidens and newlyweds. The result is a compelling new interpretation of this alluring figure.

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Ancient Greek culture is pervaded by a profound ambivalence regarding female beauty. It is an awe-inspiring, supremely desirable gift from the gods, essential to the perpetuation of a man's name through reproduction; yet it also grants women terrifying power over men, posing a threatinseparable from its allure. The myth of Helen is the...

Ruby Blondell is Professor of Classics at the University of Washington.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:September 30, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190263539

ISBN - 13:9780190263539

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Table of Contents

IllustrationsPreface1. The Problem of Female Beauty2. Helen, Daughter of Zeus3. Self-Blame and Self-Assertion: the Iliad4. Happily Ever After? The Odyssey5. Refractions of Homer's Helen: Archaic Lyric6. Behind the Scenes: Aeschylus' Oresteia7. Spartan Woman and Spartan Goddess: Herodotus8. Playing Defense: Gorgias' Encomium of Helen9. Enter Helen: Euripides' Trojan Women10. Two-Faced Helen: the Helen of Euripides11. Helen MacGuffin: IsocratesEpilogueBibliographical NotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"A broad, subtle, and beautifully-written study that deserves a large and varied readership. Combining shrewd analysis with lightly-worn expertise, Blondell shows how Greek culture turned again and again to the myth of Helen to confront the disquieting power of female beauty." --Sheila Murnaghan, University of Pennsylvania