FacultySep 17, 2019Campus News
By: George Aulisio

Professor Recommends Distinguished Author's Greek Myth Retellings

Madeline Miller will soon receive the 2019 Royden B. Davis, S.J. Distinguished Author Award. George Aulisio recently weighed in on her books.
Professor Recommends Distinguished Author's Greek Myth Retellings
"The author does not merely retell the Iliad; she draws from various mythological sources..."

The University of Scranton’s Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library has selected Madeline Miller to receive the 2019 Royden B. Davis, S.J. Distinguished Author Award. Though early in her literary career, the author is on a meteoric rise and has received major recognition for her two novels. Her first novel, The Song of Achilles, a New York Times bestseller, was awarded the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction and received recognition from the American Library Association as a Stonewall Honor Book for its representation of LGBTQ characters. Her most recent novel, 2018’s Circe, is a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, has received the American Library Association’s Red Tentacle Award for an adult book of special interest to teen readers, the 2018 Elle Big Book Award, and is recognized on a wide variety of must-read lists.

In addition to being a bestselling author, Madeline Miller has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classics from Brown University, and she has taught Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to students for the past 20 years. Her mastery of Greek mythology is apparent throughout her works. Her novels draw from Greek mythology and its textual sources and represent incredible attention to detail. Her books are page-turners, and readers quickly become invested in her characters.

In her first book, The Song of Achilles, the author utilizes characters from Homer’s Iliad to expand on the Greek mythological hero Patroclus and his relationship with Achilles. Though Patroclus is universally recognized as a Greek hero, he is mainly a secondary figure in the Iliad and is primarily remembered for his strong bond with Achilles, one of the most famous Greek heroes. Miller’s story elevates Patroclus to the narrator and main protagonist and allows his story to thrive while explaining the bond between Patroclus and Achilles. The author does not merely retell the Iliad; she draws from various mythological sources, including Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, Vergil’s Aeneid, Aeschylus’ Oresteia, as well as other works of classical reference and commentary, to fully develop the story and characters.

In her second novel, Circe, the author focuses on the minor Greek goddess Circe, who is most well-known from Homer’s Odyssey. Unlike Circe’s portrayal in the Odyssey, however, Circe is a sympathetic character, one who is misunderstood, mistreated and scorned. As an immortal, Circe’s journey is longer than a human’s, and, in turn, her psychological development is rich and expansive. As a young goddess, she is used by others for her magic and outcast to an island because of her actions. On her island, she must defend herself against the predatory advances of Odysseus’ men. She grapples with motherhood and with being abandoned by Odysseus. Circe is a strong character, however, and eventually finds her way through the world. Miller focuses on the psychological development of her protagonist, and the result is a fully developed character that the Odyssey does not capture. Once again, Miller has an uncanny ability to take a lesser character and expand upon their story and inner life through insightful, creative writing and impeccable attention to detail to Greek myth. In Circe, the author draws from many sources, including Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica, and I’m sure many others.

The Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library are very pleased to be presenting the 2019 Distinguished Author Award to Madeline Miller. The Distinguished Author event, which will be held on Oct. 5, 2019, in the DeNaples Center Ballroom, includes a book signing that is free and open to the public. The award presentation is a ticketed event that includes cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and dessert, followed by the presentation of the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award. During the ceremony, the author will give remarks on her works, which will surely be insightful and interesting.

Please consider honoring Madeline Miller’s literary achievements and supporting the Friends of the Weinberg Memorial Library by attending. For event pricing and additional information, visit: scranton.edu/authaward.

George Aulisio is an associate professor of Philosophy and Research & Scholarly Services Coordinator for The University of Scranton.
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