Monday, January 26, 2009

All that is past possesses our present

1/26/09 - reading for another class tonight - Adrienne Rich's poetry - Number VI of her Twenty -One Love Poems:
Your small hands, precisely equal to my own-
only the thumb is larger, longer-in these hands
I could trust the world, or in many hands like these,
handling power -tools or steering-wheel
or touching a human face....Such hands could turn
the unborn child rightways in the birth canal
or pilot the exploratory rescue-ship
through icebergs, or piece together
the fine, needle-like shreds of a great krater-cup,
bearing on its sides
figures of ecstatic women striding
to the sibyl's den or the Eleusinian cave-
such hands might carry out an unavoidable violence
with such restraint, with such a grasp
of the range and limits of violence
that violence ever after would be obsolete.

Seemed like a fitting entry for the Hymn to Demeter...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eleusinian mysteries

There were many websites devoted to Eleusinian mysteries, but one that focuses on Demeter is
Comments on Wednesday Jan 21st class discussion - how Persephone's time in Hades and then rebirth when she ascends back to the world of the living - how that myth appears in the biblical story of Jesus and the resurrection. In a personal search to learn more of the historical Jesus in opposition to the resurrected Christ, it clearly demonstrates how biblical stories have appropriated myths that are reassuring. Several semesters ago in a Religion/Science course, taught by Linda Sexson, we used a great book Noah's Flood - The Genesis Story in Western Thought by Norman Cohn - other cultures and religions have origin stories, and stories of the flood, stories many Christians believe are exclusive to their faith. It's an exciting book for those willing to question many of the myths they might have accepted as fact - it might be that there is room in our beliefs for both.

Also in the Jan. 21st discussion was the conflicts of language between men and women - how they use language very differently. The example used in class - a woman asking the man how she looked in a dress - shows how we expect the female to be self-centered and vain, interrupting the male's more significant thoughts as he has to come up with an answer that placates her. Sheila Murnaghan says in the Intro to the Homeric Hymns that the Hymn to Demeter is "notable for its foregrounding female perspective on events that belong to a patriarchal world order" (xviii) From the patriarchal world of the ancient Greeks to the present patriarchal order - yes - all that is past possesses our present. From a contemporary feminist view, that's not a good thing. It's difficult to feel part of a literary history that truly is "his - story," when what we read does not come from a female story-teller, but from a male story-
teller attempting to tell a story about a female perspective.