Alex Meghji Discusses Her Time Studying Atwood at UofT

May 10, 2024 by Department of Classics

We were delighted to host Alex Meghji, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Greek and Latin at University College London, as a visiting student during the Winter semester. She now returns to London to continue to work on her PhD project investigating the reception of Homer in contemporary's women's writing. Central to Alex's research is Canadian author and UofT alumna Margaret Atwood. Alex wrote a brief reflection on spending a semester at Atwood's alma mater:

“Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad is an influential work of reception and one of the core texts in my thesis, and so my visit to Toronto offered me the opportunity to examine some of Atwood’s unpublished materials. Atwood has a very complex relationship to feminism. This is particularly evident in her reluctance to identify herself as a feminist despite her attention to issues of gender, patriarchy, and oppression in her writing. Much of Atwood’s work, especially The Handmaid’s Tale, has been influential within feminist thought. But The Penelopiad is also a crucial contribution to feminist literature insofar as it challenges the patriarchal dynamics of gender in the Homeric world which lead to the execution of the enslaved women in Odyssey 22. In my study of Atwood’s unpublished materials, I was particularly interested in the ways in which Atwood engages with and critiques feminist ideas in her classically inflected writing, especially in The Penelopiad but also in her collection Circe/Mud Poems and her poem ‘Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing.’ My research here has deepened my understanding of Atwood’s feminism (or lack thereof!) and has given me much to think about as I continue to write my thesis.  
During my visit I was very fortunate to have a home in the classics department, where I met so many great people. I am particularly grateful to Victoria, who generously welcomed me to the department and to George for hosting me and helping me organize my visit. I have also had some wonderful conversations about research with Jonathan, Kenny, Jeff, Melissande, and Rareş, all of whom are doing such interesting work. Additionally, I attended exciting events and particularly enjoyed the literature stream seminars. The classics department is full of kind and brilliant scholars and it was a privilege to spend time here. I will return to UCL next week with fond memories and new ideas. Thank you for your gracious xenia. “