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The Rape of Persephone in Children’s Media: Feminist Receptions of Classical Mythology

  • Author(s): Schiano, Sierra
  • et al.
Abstract

In contemporary academic contexts, the ‘Rape of Persephone’ myth is a source of insight into the powerlessness of women in patriarchal, Greco-Roman society. In popular culture, however, the myth has found a surprising second life amongst children’s media as the story of two unlikely, star-crossed lovers. Instead of simply rephrasing the myth as it is found in ancient sources, some Western authors and artists have changed the myth’s plot and characterization of Hades and Persephone in order to transform this rape myth into a love story. In this paper, I explore the ways in which each adaptation deviates from the source material and reveals contemporary views of gender politics. On the one hand, there are some adaptations in which the ‘Rape of Persephone’ is altered just enough to be deemed appropriate for children. On the other hand, there are retellings in which the changes appear to not simply censor the myth, but to subvert the sexism inherent in the myth itself. I argue that this latter phenomenon is an act of feminist resistance against centuries of reception to the Classical myths that perpetuate the sexist gender constructs of ancient society. Ultimately, I believe these adaptations will draw young audiences to study Classical mythology and will also open up new discussions of Classical material and the ways it is received by modern society.

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