Reading University removes part of Ancient Greek poem to avoid upset

Reading University removes part of Ancient Greek poem to avoid upset

Reading University bosses cancel the Ancient Greeks by removing part of a poem that mentions domestic violence to avoid upsetting students

  • Decision made on the grounds that the words could ‘potentially trigger’ distress 
  • Critics fear others may be targeted and warned of ‘slippery slope’ to censorship
  • The 118-line poem is controversial because of the way women are portrayed 

University chiefs have removed part of an Ancient Greek poem that mentions domestic violence to avoid upsetting students.

Officials at the University of Reading cut several lines from the 2,000-year-old Types Of Women, by Semonides of Amorgos, which is taught to first-year classics students. 

The decision was made on the grounds that the words could ‘potentially trigger’ distress – even though no student had complained.

But critics fear that other works from antiquity may be targeted and warned of a ‘slippery slope’ towards censorship. 

Jeremy Black, emeritus professor of history at the University of Exeter, said: ‘This is beyond naive. 

‘It is positively ridiculous and has no place in academia. 

Reading University chiefs have removed part of an Ancient Greek poem that mentions domestic violence to avoid upsetting students

‘If we applied this same kind of censorship to the news we would end up with a most limited and ignorant view of the world.’

The 118-line poem is controversial because of the way women are portrayed. 

It says Greek god Zeus created ten types of women, each represented by an animal or an element. 

Nine – those deriving from the pig, fox, dog, earth, sea, donkey, ferret, mare and monkey – have negative connotations, with only the female who comes from a bee considered to make a good wife.

Reading – which is ranked number 27 out of 90 UK universities – used a part of the poem in a module on Greek history, alongside works by Homer and Aristotle. 

Students would have been issued with a verbal trigger alert that the work was an example of ‘extreme misogyny in Archaic Greece’, but a decision was taken to remove references of overt violence towards women.

Papers obtained by The Mail on Sunday under the Freedom of Information Act state: ‘The portion of the poem now omitted involved a brief reference to domestic violence.

Officials cut several lines from the 2,000-year-old Types Of Women, by Semonides of Amorgos (above), which is taught to first-year classics students

‘That portion has subsequently been removed because, while the text as a whole is vitriolic, that part seemed unnecessarily unpleasant and (potentially) triggering.’

But Ewen Bowie, an emeritus fellow at Corpus Christi College and Prof Emeritus of Classical Languages and Literature at Oxford University, said ancient works needed to be ‘understood in context’.

He added: ‘When you start censoring reading lists you are putting your foot on the slippery slope down towards censoring what is being sold in bookshops.’

Students studying Ancient Egypt have also been given trigger warnings about artworks depicting battle scenes. 

Last night, a spokesman for the University of Reading said: ‘We do not censor academic material. 

‘Students have access to all texts relevant to their course and are encouraged to read and discuss a wide range of material. 

‘Content warnings are used to encourage discussion and study in a way that allows students to be aware of difficult or controversial material before being confronted with it.’

It is understood the entire text of Types Of Women is available to students either online or in hard copy.

…and school asks parents to buy book on ‘agender dominatrix’ for its library 

By Sanchez Manning 

A father has described his shock at receiving a ‘Christmas’ request to buy a transgender book telling the story of an ‘agender dominatrix’ called ‘Daddy’ for his daughter’s school library.

The parent was sent an email last month by his child’s secondary school in Dorset, asking parents to order from a wishlist of books it had drawn up.

The father said the majority of the books had ‘seemed fine’ but he was alarmed by one called Gender Euphoria, not least given his own daughter’s mental health issues after she recently declared herself transgender.

A synopsis of Gender Euphoria on Waterstones’ website describes it as an anthology of 19 ‘trans, non-binary, agender, gender fluid and intersex writers’.

Those writers include an agender dominatrix called ‘Daddy’, and an Arab trans man getting his first tattoo. Agender is defined as a person who does not identify as having a particular gender.

‘You certainly don’t expect to get requests like this at Christmas,’ said the father, who asked to remain anonymous. ‘And kids at 11 or 12 don’t need this type of ideology drummed into them.’

A spokeswoman for the Bayswater Support Group, which helps the parents of children with gender issues, said: ‘We would regard these books as unsuitable for a school library, accessible by 11-year-olds, due to the nature of their adult sexual content.’

A Dorset Council spokeswoman said: ‘We haven’t seen an email from the school, but do understand they are trying to expand their reading resources.’

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: ‘It is important that schools use material that is age-appropriate. We also expect them to work closely with parents.’

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