Pandora's jar Women in Greek myths

Natalie Haynes

Book - 2022

The Greek myths are among the world's most important cultural building blocks and they have been retold many times, but rarely do they focus on the remarkable women at the heart of these ancient stories. Stories of gods and monsters are the mainstay of epic poetry and Greek tragedy, from Homer to Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, from the Trojan War to Jason and the Argonauts. And still, today, a wealth of novels, plays and films draw their inspiration from stories first told almost three... thousand years ago. But modern tellers of Greek myth have usually been men, and have routinely shown little interest in telling women's stories. And when they do, those women are often painted as monstrous, vengeful or just plain evil. But Pandora--the first woman, who according to legend unloosed chaos upon the world-- was not a villain, and even Medea and Phaedra have more nuanced stories than generations of retellings might indicate. Now, in Pandora's Jar, Natalie Haynes--broadcaster, writer and passionate classicist-- redresses this imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar (the box came later) as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, be they Zeus or Agamemnon, Paris or Odysseus, Oedipus or Jason, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Harper Perennial [2022]
Edition
First U.S. edition
Language
English
Item Description
"Originally published in Great Britain in 2020 by Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan"--Copyright page.
Physical Description
308 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 291-308).
ISBN
9780063139466
9780063211315
0063139464
0063211319
Main Author
Natalie Haynes (author)
  • Pandora
  • Jocasta
  • Helen
  • Medusa
  • The Amazons
  • Clytemnestra
  • Eurydice
  • Phaedra
  • Medea
  • Penelope.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Tales of the Greek heroes are indelibly woven into the fabric of Western storytelling, as the exploits of Odysseus and Oedipus are told and retold to each new generation. But what of the women? In Pandora's Jar, comedian and classicist Haynes (A Thousand Ships, 2019) explores the lives and afterlives of figures like Medea, Penelope, Medusa, and Clytemnestra. Portrayals of these women frequently fall along predictable, usually condemnatory lines—Medea the unnatural mother, Helen the ultimate femme fatale. Haynes complicates these narratives, diving into the historical and literary records to understand how and why stories and interpretations of the women of Greek mythology have changed over time. Why does Greek art lack any images of Jocasta? Why does Helen shoulder the blame not only for the multiple abductions she suffers but also for 10 years of war among men? What might Eurydice have to say about Orpheus' failure to save her life? Packed with wry humor and scholarly insight, Pandora's Jar shines a new light on our oldest stories, illuminating its subjects in all their painful complexity. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Ranging from when New York City was inhabited by the Lenape people to the present day, from grubby brothels to chic hotels, Bird tells the story of New York by focusing on A Block in Time that's bounded east-west by Sixth and Seventh avenues and north-south by 23rd and 24th streets and is overlooked by the famous Flatiron Building (45,000-copy first printing). Chief editor for Le Monde diplomatique, Chollet argues In Defense of Witches, whom she sees as symbolic of female resistance to male oppression throughout history, with the women most likely to be perceived as witches—independent-minded, childless, or older—still being outcast today (75,000-copy first printing). Having reported from Hong Kong as well as South East Asia, journalist England offers Fortune's Bazaar, the story of kaleidoscopic Hong Kong through the diverse peoples who have made the city what it is today (75,000-copy first printing). A former senior editor at The New Yorker and author of the multi-best-booked Ike and Dick, Frank returns with a reassessment of our 33rd president in The Trials of Harry S. Truman. Influential Brown economist Galor, whose unified growth theory focuses on economic growth throughout human history, tracks The Journey of Humanity to show that the last two centuries represent a new phase differentiated from the past by generally better living conditions but also a radically increased gap between the rich and the rest. Following A Thousand Ships, which was short-listed for Britain's Women's Prize for Fiction and a best seller in the United States, Haynes's Pandora's Jar belongs to a growing number of titles that put the female characters of Greek mythology front and center as less passive or secondary than they've been regarded (25,000-copy hardcover and 30,000-copy paperback first printing). In Against All Odds, popular historian Kershaw tells the story of four soldiers in the same regiment—Capt. Maurice "Footsie" Britt, West Point dropout Michael Daly, soon-to be Hollywood legend Audie Murphy, and Capt. Keith Ware, eventually the most senior US general to die in Vietnam—who became the four most decorated U.S. soldiers of World War II. After World War II, six women were given the daunting task of programming the world's first general-purpose, all-electronic computer, called ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) and meant to calculate a single ballistic trajectory in 20 seconds rather than 40 hours by hand; internet law and policy specialist Kleiman interviewed four of the women over two decades, eventually writing Proving Ground and producing the award-winning documentary The Computers (50,000-copy first printing). From former Wall Street Journal reporter and New York Times best-selling author Lowenstein (e.g., When Hubris Failed), Ways and Means shows how President Abraham Lincoln and his administration parlayed efforts to fund the Civil War into creating a more centralized government. New York Times best-selling author Rappaport (Caught in the Revolution) shows what happened After the Romanovs to the aristocrats, artists, and intellectuals who fled the Russian Revolution for Paris (60,000-copy first printing). Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Ranging from when New York City was inhabited by the Lenape people to the present day, from grubby brothels to chic hotels, Bird tells the story of New York by focusing on A Block in Time that's bounded east-west by Sixth and Seventh avenues and north-south by 23rd and 24th streets and is overlooked by the famous Flatiron Building (45,000-copy first printing). Chief editor for Le Monde diplomatique, Chollet argues In Defense of Witches, whom she sees as symbolic of female resistance to male oppression throughout history, with the women most likely to be perceived as witches—independent-minded, childless, or older—still being outcast today (75,000-copy first printing). Having reported from Hong Kong as well as South East Asia, journalist England offers Fortune's Bazaar, the story of kaleidoscopic Hong Kong through the diverse peoples who have made the city what it is today (75,000-copy first printing). A former senior editor at The New Yorker and author of the multi-best-booked Ike and Dick, Frank returns with a reassessment of our 33rd president in The Trials of Harry S. Truman. Influential Brown economist Galor, whose unified growth theory focuses on economic growth throughout human history, tracks The Journey of Humanity to show that the last two centuries represent a new phase differentiated from the past by generally better living conditions but also a radically increased gap between the rich and the rest. Following A Thousand Ships, which was short-listed for Britain's Women's Prize for Fiction and a best seller in the United States, Haynes's Pandora's Jar belongs to a growing number of titles that put the female characters of Greek mythology front and center as less passive or secondary than they've been regarded (25,000-copy hardcover and 30,000-copy paperback first printing). In Against All Odds, popular historian Kershaw tells the story of four soldiers in the same regiment—Capt. Maurice "Footsie" Britt, West Point dropout Michael Daly, soon-to be Hollywood legend Audie Murphy, and Capt. Keith Ware, eventually the most senior US general to die in Vietnam—who became the four most decorated U.S. soldiers of World War II. After World War II, six women were given the daunting task of programming the world's first general-purpose, all-electronic computer, called ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) and meant to calculate a single ballistic trajectory in 20 seconds rather than 40 hours by hand; internet law and policy specialist Kleiman interviewed four of the women over two decades, eventually writing Proving Ground and producing the award-winning documentary The Computers (50,000-copy first printing). From former Wall Street Journal reporter and New York Times best-selling author Lowenstein (e.g., When Hubris Failed), Ways and Means shows how President Abraham Lincoln and his administration parlayed efforts to fund the Civil War into creating a more centralized government. New York Times best-selling author Rappaport (Caught in the Revolution) shows what happened After the Romanovs to the aristocrats, artists, and intellectuals who fled the Russian Revolution for Paris (60,000-copy first printing). Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Classicist Haynes (A Thousand Ships) challenges common ideas about Greek mythology in this sharp corrective. To show "how differently were viewed in the ancient world," she closely reads the tales of 10 mythological women. Medusa, for example, was more than just a serpent-haired villain, but was transformed into a "monster" after being raped by Poseidon. In the tale of Jocasta written by Sophocles, she and Oedipus did not realize the nature of their relationship (and readers often overlook her "terrible fate," Haynes writes). Medea, meanwhile, was a clever woman whose choice between "jealous or crazy" mirrors Beyoncé's, and Pandora didn't unleash evils onto the world out of vengeance—her vessel was originally a jar, not a box, and one easily tipped over. Haynes also offers a fascinating study of renderings of mythological figures in art as they changed over time, including on ancient water jars, in Italian bowls from 400 BCE, and as 16th-century statues. While in some sections Haynes assumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader, when she hits her stride and seamlessly blends historical, textual, and artistic analysis, her survey sings. Even those casually familiar with Greek mythology will find this enriching. Agent: Peter Strauss, RCW Literary. (Mar.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Classicist Haynes (A Thousand Ships) challenges common ideas about Greek mythology in this sharp corrective. To show "how differently were viewed in the ancient world," she closely reads the tales of 10 mythological women. Medusa, for example, was more than just a serpent-haired villain, but was transformed into a "monster" after being raped by Poseidon. In the tale of Jocasta written by Sophocles, she and Oedipus did not realize the nature of their relationship (and readers often overlook her "terrible fate," Haynes writes). Medea, meanwhile, was a clever woman whose choice between "jealous or crazy" mirrors Beyoncé's, and Pandora didn't unleash evils onto the world out of vengeance—her vessel was originally a jar, not a box, and one easily tipped over. Haynes also offers a fascinating study of renderings of mythological figures in art as they changed over time, including on ancient water jars, in Italian bowls from 400 BCE, and as 16th-century statues. While in some sections Haynes assumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader, when she hits her stride and seamlessly blends historical, textual, and artistic analysis, her survey sings. Even those casually familiar with Greek mythology will find this enriching. Agent: Peter Strauss, RCW Literary. (Mar.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"In Pandora's Jar, the broadcaster, writer, stand-up comedian, and passionate classicist turns the tables, putting the women of the Greek myths on an equal footing with the men. With wit, humor, and savvy, Haynes revolutionizes our understanding of epic poems, stories, and plays, resurrecting them from a woman's perspective and tracing the origins of their mythic female characters"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER“Funny, sharp explications of what these sometimes not-very-nice women were up to, and how they sometimes made idiots of . . . but read on!”—Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's TaleThe national bestselling author of A Thousand Ships returns with a fascinating, eye-opening take on the remarkable women at the heart of classical stories Greek mythology from Helen of Troy to Pandora and the Amazons to Medea.The tellers of Greek myths—historically men—have routinely sidelined the female characters. When they do take a larger role, women are often portrayed as monstrous, vengeful or just plain evil—like Pandora, the woman of eternal scorn and damnation whose curiosity is tasked with causing all the world’s suffering and wickedness when she opened that forbidden box. But, as Natalie Haynes reveals, in ancient Greek myths there was no box. It was a jar . . . which is far more likely to tip over.In Pandora’s Jar, the broadcaster, writer, stand-up comedian, and passionate classicist turns the tables, putting the women of the Greek myths on an equal footing with the men. With wit, humor, and savvy, Haynes revolutionizes our understanding of epic poems, stories, and plays, resurrecting them from a woman’s perspective and tracing the origins of their mythic female characters. She looks at women such as Jocasta, Oedipus’ mother-turned-lover-and-wife (turned Freudian sticking point), at once the cleverest person in the story and yet often unnoticed. She considers Helen of Troy, whose marriage to Paris “caused” the Trojan war—a somewhat uneven response to her decision to leave her husband for another man. She demonstrates how the vilified Medea was like an ancient Beyonce—getting her revenge on the man who hurt and betrayed her, if by extreme measures. And she turns her eye to Medusa, the original monstered woman, whose stare turned men to stone, but who wasn’t always a monster, and had her hair turned to snakes as punishment for being raped.Pandora’s Jar brings nuance and care to the millennia-old myths and legends and asks the question: Why are we so quick to villainize these women in the first place—and so eager to accept the stories we’ve been told?