woman with a green bandanna tied around her head says that she
lived with a Berber family in Morocco for two months, and only
saw the father once. The class follows this tangent for a few
minutes, intrigued by her stories, until Slatkin directs them
toward today's reading. The separation of men and women in this
household, she points out, seems "directly relevant not just to
the Berber example, but to a general picture of the way there's
more demarcation than simply outside/inside." She makes the transition.
"Is there a paradox about women and boundaries when we come to
the readings for today?"
the students seem a bit shy, so Slatkin tries a different tactic.
"Let me ask you as a group: Did you like these readings? Find
them provocative? Suggestive? Boring? Were you appalled?"
states one woman.
primary readings--Greek medical writings translated into English--came
from Women's Life in Greece and Rome, edited by Mary R.
Lefkowitz and Maureen B. Fant. Because most of the students are
not classicists--the course is listed under ancient studies, classical
civilizations, classics, and gender studies--Slatkin had also
assigned three scholarly articles to help them put the primary
works in context. The course description notes that in addition
to studying how women were portrayed in ancient Greek literature
and comparing women's literary roles with their social status,
students will read contemporary studies to help them "analyze
the origins of Western attitudes toward women."
not asking, 'Did you like most the part where you stick a feather
up a woman to get her to menstruate?'" she explains, perhaps hoping
to shock them into discussion. "I'm asking about the secondary
articles." She's looking for arguments, ideas.
intense woman in a white T-shirt and black sweater notes how one
commentary pointed out the many bestial references to women in
the ancient Greek medical writings. "I would have liked to know
if men ever compared themselves to animals, and in what context."
comments that Plato did compare men to animals, talking about
their "raging impulse to conquest."
of a lecture, this is the format the class will follow: Slatkin
asking questions and offering insights in between student comments,
until the discussion begins to resemble a rapid game of ping-pong.