OXFORD, UK – The continuing fascination with ancient Greek literature inspiring modern retellings was the focus of an article in Cherwell, Oxford University’s independent student newspaper on May 28.
Among the authors cited in the article were Madeline Miller and Rick Riordan who use “mythology and classical literature as the Muse to their own writing,” Cherwell reported.
Riordan’s Percy Jackson series of children’s books is inspired by Greek mythology and offers young readers, ages 9-10, an introduction to various well-known ancient heroes including Odysseus, Heracles, and Perseus.
Giving voice to female characters from ancient Greek literature is one way contemporary authors draw inspiration for their own works. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, For The Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser, and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, are just a few examples “where the writer gives their reader more insight into the ‘backstory’ of the women who have little or no voice in epic,” Cherwell reported, adding that “it is precisely this reclaiming of the female voice through which these authors shine – both Hauser and Barker focus on the Iliadic slave-women, Chryseis and Briseis, who serve the Greek leaders in their camp.”
“Atwood’s Penelope is recast from an already shadowy character in the Odyssey,” Cherwell reported, noting that “while Homer gives us Penelope’s wily nature and calculating intelligence, Atwood amplifies this, showing us the more cynical side of a woman traditionally seen as the paradigm of the faithful wife (to an incredibly wayward husband).”
Circe by Madeline Miller, published in 2018, is another retelling inspired by the “bewitching goddess” character from the Odyssey and expanding her story. The Song of Achilles also by Miller recounts the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus from Patroclus’ point of view, expanding on Homer’s Iliad in this moving novel.
The books mentioned above are all available online.