Texts of Terror in the Humanities Curriculum by Carol P. Christ

Carol in Crete croppedWhen I began to study Latin in my freshman year in high school, one of the first texts we were asked to translate concerned the “rape” of the Sabine women. Even though the Latin text used a word that looked and sounded like it should be translated as “rape,” we were told that the Romans “abducted” the Sabine women and that the word should be translated as “seized.” Not long afterward, we read a story from Ovid in which a nymph named Daphne was turned into a tree in order to escape being raped by a God. I found both of these stories puzzling.

I had not heard the term “rape culture” which was coined much later, but the fact that I can still visualize the words “virgines” and “raptae sunt,” as well as the pictures that accompanied both stories, suggests that I was aware that…

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