‘Snowflake’ scholar de­clares war on ‘too sexy’ Ro­man myths

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Focus - By Caro­line Gra­ham and Jonathan Pe­tre

THEY are the myths that have en­thralled and ed­u­cated gen­er­a­tions through­out the ages.

But now one of Bri­tain’s lead­ing clas­sics schol­ars has found him­self un­der at­tack for in­clud­ing ‘po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect’ scenes of rape and nu­dity in a Latin text­book – in the lat­est in­stance of ‘snowflake’ stu­dents be­ing shielded from of­fence.

Peter Jones, for­mer se­nior lec­turer in clas­sics at New­cas­tle Univer­sity, was stunned when a Latin tu­tor at a US univer­sity branded him ‘of­fen­sive’ and ‘sex­ist’ for in­clud­ing scenes from the rape of Lu­cre­tia and the tale of three naked god­desses in the lat­est edition of his renowned text­book, Read­ing Latin.

He said: ‘In or­der to un­der­stand the an­cient world, you have to un­der­stand the way they thought about things, which is quite dif­fer­ent from the way we think. It is hard to see why peo­ple who wish to un­der­stand the an­cient world find ma­te­rial that the an­cient world took for granted so un­palat­able. Cer­tain uni­ver­si­ties and stu­dents seem un­will­ing to get in­side the head of cul­tures they don’t un­der­stand, and take of­fence too eas­ily at other cul­tures.’

The Latin in­struc­tor from Ohio State Univer­sity com­plained to Jones’s pub­lisher about the in­clu­sion of ‘two sto­ries about rape’ and ‘one of the very few ver­sions of the Judge­ment of Paris where Paris views Hera, Athena and Aphrodite with their clothes off’.

The in­struc­tor added: ‘Teach­ing Latin means en­coun­ter­ing many un­com­fort­able top­ics with stu­dents but it doesn’t help, or make the his­tor­i­cally racist and clas­sist dis­ci­pline of clas­sics any more ac­ces­si­ble when the ed­i­tors of read­ing texts make such of­fen­sive choices.’ Jones re­sponded: ‘It is be­yond be­lief that some­one com­mit­ted to se­ri­ous his­tor­i­cal en­quiry could find such an ex­er­cise “of­fen­sive”.’ He said his book fea­tures ‘three god­desses, each con­fi­dently strip­ping off, de­ter­mined to win the golden ap­ple from Paris’ as well as two rapes, but in­sisted study­ing leg­ends like these is ‘cru­cial’ if his­to­ri­ans are to be prop­erly able to ‘in­ter­ro­gate the past’.

He said: ‘Though deities sel­dom com­pete to win golden ap­ples these days, it is not as if rape has van­ished from the face of the earth, let alone racism and clas­sism. One might have thought that his­tor­i­cal takes on is­sues of such con­tem­po­rary im­por­tance were the per­fect medium to ex­plore them “safely’’.’

Many UK and US uni­ver­si­ties have banned tra­di­tional texts that might ‘trig­ger’ neg­a­tive re­sponses and have cre­ated ‘safe spa­ces’ and ‘con­tro­versy-free zones’ for stu­dents.

The Ohio lec­turer de­clined to be in­ter­viewed when ap­proached by The Mail on Sun­day and asked not to be named.

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