Clara Bosak-Schroeder

April 15 @ 5 pm

Co-sponsored by the Center for European Studies and the Department of Classical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Introduced and organized by Will Brockliss, Associate Professor of CANES as part of the Center for European Studies Spring 2021 Virtual Lecture Series

Ancient Greek writers were fascinated by other peoples and their customs, especially sex and marriage customs very different from their own. One of these was called mixis epikoinos or “sex in common,” in which men would “share” wives. Though some Greek historians were shocked by the practice, others associated it with utopia: if women circulated as a common resource, they thought, strife would diminish and material prosperity could increase. This idea influenced Plato’s Republic, where Socrates advocates similar sexual customs as part of a larger commitment to communalism (457d).
In this talk, Bosak-Schroeder brings the Republic and other stories of mixis epikoinos into dialogue with The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-), a Hulu series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name. Not only does the series allude to the Republic and other sources of classical learning, its world depends on a form of mixis epikoinos. In the near-future imagined by Atwood, fertility has plummeted and people who have successfully given birth are enslaved as sexual “handmaids” to elite men. Analyzing this system through Greek literature Bosak-Schroeder explores The Handmaid’s Tale as a classical reception and explain its confusing environmental politics, which tie the subjugation of women to environmental conservation and stewardship.

Clara Bosak-Schroeder (she/they), Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, is also an affiliate of History, Medieval Studies, Comparative and World Literature, and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory.  Clara has won a Faculty Fellowship from the Humanities Research Institute (2017-2018), a Junior Fellowship from the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory (2018-2020), and has been recognized as a LEAP Scholar (2018-2020). She will be a junior fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in 2021-2022.

Her first book, Other Natures: Environmental Encounters With Ancient Greek Ethnography (UC Press 2020), demonstrates that ancient Greek authors cast humans and nonhumans in complex, interdependent relationships. A second project examines how modern and contemporary artists interpret the seven wonders of the ancient world. Clara’s essays have appeared or are forthcoming in AvidlyZone 3, and Bellingham Review. They also coordinate CripAntiquity, an advocacy organization for neurodiverse and disabled students, instructors, scholars, and artists in ancient Mediterranean studies.

See the event listing on the European Studies calendar.