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The Sirens' Song: Women and Gender in Bearden and Homer

Date:September 26, 2014 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm EDT
Location:East Gallery, Buell Hall, Columbia University
Contact:For further information regarding this event, please contact Columbia University by sending email to or by calling 212-851-9275.

"The Sirens," according to the Odyssey, "are enchanters of all mankind…They sit in their meadow, but the beach before it is piled with boneheaps of men now rotted away…" Here and elsewhere, the Homeric epics present a complex, often fearful portrait of women and femininity, while gender both structures and undoes the very warp and weave of the poems. Borrowing the ambiguity and power of the epics’ depiction of women and gender, and extending it in radical new ways, Romare Bearden’s Odyssey and Iliad-inspired drawings and paintings challenge us to rethink the relationship between gender, narrative, and representation in an entirely new context.

In this roundtable discussion, scholars of classicism, art history, and African American literature will present richly layered readings of Homer and Bearden’s work, considering such topics as the gender of flatness and the silhouette, the cannibalistic desires of Achilles and Hecuba, feminist reinterpretations of Penelope and Odysseus’ reunion, the gendering of narrative structure and conclusions, and imaginings of Circe in the work of Homer, Bearden, and Toni Morrison.

The discussion will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience and will feature the following panelists:

Marcellus Blount, Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Rachael DeLue, Associate Professor of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University

Helene P. Foley, Professor of Classics, Barnard College

Farah Jasmine Griffin, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies, Columbia University

Brooke Holmes, Professor of Classics, Princeton University

Anjuli Kolb, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Williams College

About Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey
This exhibition of Romare Bearden’s collages based on Homer will be presented on Columbia University’s campus. Accompanying this Smithsonian exhibition will be a yearlong series of symposia, concerts, and readings to explore the Harlem based artist’s translation of the ancient epic into a fiercely modern tale. What does it mean for all of us, as global citizens, to seek our way back home?

Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in cooperation with the Romare Bearden Foundation and Estate and DC Moore Gallery. The exhibition and its related educational resources are supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos

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