Teaching Literature Book Award 2015 Winner

From Abortion to Pederasty

Addressing Difficult Topics in the Classics Classroom

Edited by Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz and Fiona McHardy


Literary Criticism/Ancient & Classical
303 pp. 6x9

$34.95 paper 978-0-8142-5250-5
Add paper to shopping cart

Shopping Cart Instructions
Review/Change Shopping Cart & Check-out

Table of Contents


“This volume offers a thorough, balanced, scholarly and thought-provoking discussion of subjects that are sensitive and challenging to teach, and which classicists are likely to encounter. The volume as a whole is strong and coherent, and deserves to be read cover to cover.” —Emily Greenwood, Yale University

“This volume is very relevant to the larger research agendas within the field of classical scholarship, and will enable those who admire the current cutting-edge classical research to integrate the difficult subjects it tackles into their undergraduate and graduate classrooms. It will fill a definite lacuna in the pedagogical literature.” —Alison Keith, University of Toronto

This volume had its origins in a very specific situation: the teaching of ancient texts dealing with rape. Ensuing discussions among a group of scholars expanded outwards from this to other sensitive areas. Ancient sources raise a variety of issues—slavery, infanticide, abortion, rape, pederasty, domestic violence, death, sexuality—that may be difficult to discuss in a classroom where some students will have had experiences similar to those described in classical texts. They may therefore be reluctant to speak in class, and even the reading themselves may be painful.

From Abortion to Pederasty: Addressing Difficult Topics in the Classics Classroom, edited by Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz and Fiona McHardy, is committed to the proposition that it is important to continue to teach texts that raise these issues, not to avoid them. In this volume, classicists and ancient historians from around the world address how to teach such topics as rape, pederasty, and slavery in the classics classroom. The contributors present the concrete ways in which they themselves have approached such issues in their course planning and in their responses to students’ needs.

A main objective of From Abortion to Pederasty is to combat arguments, from both the left and the right, that the classics are elitist and irrelevant. Indeed, they are so relevant, and so challenging, as to be painful at times. Another objective is to show how Greco-Roman culture and history can provide a way into a discussion that might have been difficult or even traumatic in other settings. Thus it will provide teaching tools for dealing with uncomfortable topics in the classroom, including homophobia and racism.

Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz is professor of comparative literature at Hamilton College. Fiona McHardy is principal lecturer in classical civilisation at the University of Roehampton.