Women in Origin Myths

This was a lecture given by Patrick Geary, from UCal, on Feb 7th. My notes, my misinterpretations….

*Random notes:
– Matthew and Luke genealogies don’t agree?
– Davidic lineage? [Not really sure what this was referring to, obviously something biblical..]
– Matilda of Tuscany [hmmm… some sort of mythology around her I guess…]

*Interest in memory currently:
– end of the Cold War: how to remember, especially in Warsaw Pact areas
– death of WWII survivors – Holocaust survivors and perpetrators, soldiers. Who has the right to tell about the past?
— This is really about the present and the future (what was – what is, and what should be [sounds like a Led Zeppelin song…]).

*Around the fifth century BC, and following, interest in genealogies increased – but generations of men. So where were the women?

*Athens
– the first man involved no woman; sprung form the earth.
– first woman ismade, not generated
Problem: to be a citizen, have to have father and mother as citizens….

*Herodotus’ story of the Scyths
– mother is semi-divine, or semi-monster…
— Byzantium liked Herodotus, and used this story.
— Amazons –> Scythians –> Goths

*Sarah and Hagar: Hebrews and Arabs

*More important to look at audience than possible matriarchal origins (at least in some cases). [I’ve always thought matriarchal ideas were feminists grasping at straws, which I thought was sad both because they thought they had to and because I thought that it was unlikely that society has ever been much different in its shape over the last several thousand years].

*Medieval historians/genealogist (most of whom were clerical, so had no children, but put themselves in the family begun by a virgin mother…):
– women are in the mythic pre-history of people/nations; their disappearance is necessary for the beginning of ‘real’ history (only men)
– not incorporated satisfactorily into lineages
– writers are aware/ambivalent of current women leaders
– fail to reconcile rension between the ideal and actuality.

*Why didn’t the men just write the problematic women out? There must have been something in the tradition….

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