“The Conscience of Her Worth”
In Lit Hum, we read thousands of years’ worth of conversation at the highest level about what it means to be human. Lit Hum texts argue with each other, counter and forward each other’s visions, break free of genres and use words to create meaning in wholly new ways. But they do not represent the entirety of human experience. The Lit Hum canon is defined against some extraordinarily telling negative space.
A theme I’ve been tracking throughout Lit Hum is the disjuncture between real and imagined womanhood. While the male gaze creates all sorts of imagined womanhoods, this is not a disjuncture that can always be easily located in the mind of the male author—women are imagined and reimagined in complicated ways within every text and between texts. How does Eve understand herself in a way that Adam and Satan do not understand her? How does Odysseus relate to Penelope, and how does he relate to Athena as an abstracted and idealized version of Penelope? How many times do we hear Helen speak across texts and genres, and how many more times do we hear her spoken about by men?
In this collection of poetry, inspired by Ovid’s Heroides, I use free verse to speak for and to the women of Lit Hum, reimagining once again what it means to be a woman and a human in this literature.
Claire Spaulding (CC ’19) is a potential anthropology major. She is active in Kesher and CMTS, and in her free time, she enjoys going on adventures in New York, checking out more books from the library than she will ever have time to read, and cooking with her friends. Her writing has been published in Daily Science Fiction, One Teen Story, and GayYA.org.