Antigone Rising: The Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths by Helen Morales

Antigone Rising is a look at how Greek and Roman myths can influence radical and rebellious thought and narratives in the modern day. Classicist Helen Morales goes through a selection of myth (starting and ending with Antigone) to think about modern parallels and reimaginings and where myths or elements of them might be reclaimed or reused to look at modern issues around feminism, race, and gender. Some chapters look at rape culture and gender fluidity in mythology, especially Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and how this relates to the modern day, including the issues in these texts and how people have or might reclaim them, and another considers art, race, and the figure of Venus in relation to BeyoncĂ©.

There’s nothing new in drawing contemporary comparisons with Greek and Roman mythology, but what Morales tries to do is to highlight some of the ways this can be done in resistance and for particular issues, and also suggest some of the problems with doing this too. It would’ve been interesting to get more about the problems of using myths like this (the book is quite short), but where she does engage with the complexity is more interesting than a ‘this classical figure could be feminist’ kind of analysis. The topics vary and the pace is quite fast, which makes this an easy book to read, and keeps it engaging. She doesn’t assume knowledge of any of the myths, which is useful for a general audience, and the book would make a good introduction to looking deeper at where mythology can be updated and used in modern contexts for elements of protest and resistance.

Antigone Rising presents a slightly more complex idea of looking at Greek and Roman myths for modern day resonance, and touches on some interesting ideas, including on some of the limitations of doing this. It felt like it could’ve gone on for a lot more chapters covering other myths and topics, but the length makes it good as an introduction, and it has notes and mentions of other texts people could follow up on afterwards.