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The Europa Network


I examine literary and visual portrayals of Europa from the eighth to the second centuries BC. The evidence is distributed across a variety of media, genres, geographical locations, and contexts. My belief is that by exploring how ancient audiences interacted with various literary and visual representations of Europa, we will come to understand how Europa is both a source for the name of the continent Europe, as well as much that constitutes modern European identity. This includes an acute awareness of the need to integrate men, women, and people of diverse cultural backgrounds into a common cultural milieu. My approach integrates modern scholarship on the plurality of Greek religions, network theory, and audience engagement theories. I focus on individual representations of Europa in order to understand inner workings of the Europa Network, while also examining the evidence diachronically in order to understand system-wide features that persist over time. My findings reveal that Europa was a cross-cultural icon, whose myth was appropriated in times of marriage, death, war, and peace. Europa herself is a symbol of unity across divides, including those between people and gods, childhood and adulthood, even life and death. By the end, it will become clear that the ancient Greeks were more modern than we sometimes realize or give them credit for being. They also lived in a complex, interconnected world, and, through art and literature, devised sophisticated techniques for negotiating life’s transitions. They struggled with some of the same issues facing us today, and like us, they had no clear answers when it came to explaining the antagonism between sexes and cultures, but they did have tools to help, like the myth of Europa. In that sense, I hope to inspire us to activate art and literature similarly as we strive towards unity in an increasingly complex world. With immigration such a hot topic worldwide for public discourse, and the #metoo movement having brought women’s rights to the forefront as never before, we must learn to appreciate how we form a collective humanity with people living on every part of the planet today, as well as with those who lived thousands of years ago.

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