This week I began reading the primary texts of my project, starting with Pat Barker’s Silence of the Girls. I divided my reading into manageable sections to read daily. However, whether because the pandemic has diminished my attention span or the novel is not gripping, I found it difficult to stick to my schedule. Nevertheless,I slowly made my way through the first two-thirds of the novel before I finally found myself furiously flipping pages and reluctant to put the book down. While I read, I made notes in the margins about themes, surprising (and unsurprising) findings, interesting literary decisions, and predictions. When I finished the novel, I transcribed these annotations onto my computer to use as notes for my essay and analysis.
While formulating my thoughts on this novel, I tried to divide my thinking into sections. The novel tackles a variety of issues from slavery to toxic masculinity, and Barker takes no-hold-barred approach to this discussion. For instance, within the first chapter the main character’s, Briseis’, sister hurls herself from the top of a tower to avoid enslavement. So, I read the novel from two lenses. First, that of an average reader, one choosing this novel for pleasure who may or may not have any prior knowledge of the source materials. Second, I read from a more critical lens. That is, I took an approach that blended various schools of literary criticism. Both approaches are equally as important. While the first may not have the force of scholarship, accessibility and enjoyability have an undeniable impact on readership and success. And, while I’m not specifically looking at the relative success of classical reinterpretations, it’s still an important discussion, especially for broadening the scope and reach of classical studies. As for the second approach, this one relates more concretely to my analysis of the aesthetics of modern retellings. Although there is undoubtedly overlap between the two, I felt that I could produce a better analysis if I separated them, particularly so that my feelings, both good and bad, had a limited effect on my ultimate analysis.
This week, I will continue to compile notes and research for my essay.