University cuts lines from ancient poem over fears domestic violence reference could be ‘triggering’

·3 min read
Greek vase
Greek vase

A university has cut lines from an Ancient Greek poem in seminars over fears that a reference to domestic violence could “trigger” students.

The “unnecessarily unpleasant” section has been removed from Types Of Women, by Semonides of Amorgos, in a short handout sheet for freshers taking Reading University’s classics course.

A verbal trigger warning was previously issued at the start of the introductory module, titled “Greek History: war, society, and change in the Archaic Age”, alerting freshers to “an example of extreme misogyny in Archaic Greece”.

But this alert was dropped when the academic in charge of the course decided to axe the “vitriolic” brief reference altogether from a poem extract used in class.

Despite no student making a complaint, it was felt that the ancient poem in its original form could give a distorted view to freshers new to studying classics, campus officials said.

But leading scholars raised concerns about “historical revisionism and censoring of core readings” that could narrow free thought.

Types Of Women, also known simply as Women, dates back to the seventh century BC.

The 118-line long poem describes the ten types of women said to have been created by the Greek god Zeus based on models from the natural world, seven of which are animals and two are elements. All of them are presented as destructive characters save for the final type, derived from a bee, which is said to make for a good wife.

‘A brief reference’

One translation of the work includes the line: “She’s used to getting smacked, and won’t give in until you threaten her and really force her.”

At Reading University, documents released under freedom of information laws, seen by the Mail on Sunday, state: “The portion of the poem now omitted involved a brief reference to domestic violence.

“That portion has subsequently been removed because, while the text as a whole is vitriolic, that part seemed unnecessarily unpleasant and (potentially) triggering.”

Prof Doug Stokes, from the anti-woke scholarly campaign group History Reclaimed, told The Telegraph: “The principal purpose of universities is to help foster critical thinking, intellectual resilience and personal maturity.

“Reading’s historical revisionism and censoring of core readings for its students is yet another example of a creeping and illiberal emphasis on emotional wellbeing that seeks to extend childhood for young adults. Employers and parents should take note of the kinds of values promoted by university leaders and choose accordingly.”

Last summer, Reading University’s vice-chancellor, Robert Van de Noort, leapt to the defence of trigger warnings after lecturers were urged to introduce them for “distressing” topics such as pregnancy. He insisted that “advance warning not only leads to better teaching and study, but is just common courtesy”.

‘This is not censorship’

Another “content warning” at the university covers artworks depicting the Egyptian battle scenes of Ramesses II and Tutankhamun in Ancient Egypt.

Reading University said the full text of the poem was available in its library in hard copy and online and that the changed extract “was a sensible academic decision, made for a range of good reasons by an experienced and respected historian”.

A spokesman said: “This is not censorship, nor is it mollycoddling oversensitive students. Nothing has been cancelled.”

The spokesman added: “Students have access to all texts relevant to their course, and are encouraged to read and discuss a wide range of material.”