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Date of Award
Restricted Thesis: Campus only access
Bachelor of Arts
Dr. Abigail Cheever
Dr. Erika Zimmerman Damer
The character of Helen of Troy is often remembered only in terms of her beauty. The general public associates the name Helen of Troy with a kind of unworldly attraction and physical perfection of a woman who could drive men to war, “the face that launched a thousand ships”. However, the common views associated with Helen have little to do with her various depictions in the literary works such as Homer’s The Iliad, Euripides’ The Trojan Women, Horace’s Odes, Propertius’ Elegies, and Ovid’s Heroides, or her cinematic depictions in Robert Wise’s Helen of Troy, Mihalis Kakogiannis’ Trojan Women, Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy, and John Kent Harrison’s miniseries Helen of Troy. Helen can be read not just as a lovely face, but instead in a number of ways: as a victim of an unfair world and husband in both Wise’s and Harrison’s Helen of Troy, as a temptress playing with both Menelaus and Paris in The Trojan Women, as a pawn of the gods in The Iliad, or even as character seeking their own form of glory and fame, a sort of female Achilles as in The Heroides. As a result of these varied depictions, she actually serves as an interesting case study for how female agency and transgressive power have been portrayed in literature and film: Helen’s depictions in these works bring up questions of how female agency and culpability intertwine in both literature and film, and also how female agency changes and often decreases in the transition from page to screen.
Tagtmeier, Ellen, ""What is behind the face that launched a thousand ships?" : narrative and visual agency in the depiction of Helen of Troy" (2013). Honors Theses. 27.