Author: Elena Shalneva

Work—the Tragedy of Our Age

The only text I vividly remember from my university semester in Classics is a poem by Hesiod entitled Works and Days. I read Homer, of course, and Virgil, and Ovid, and the three tragedians, but their texts have long become a blur of strange names, strange desires, inventive use of parataxis and the word “destiny.” But I remember Hesiod. Memory is a peculiar thing. Hesiod is the seventh century BC management book writer. He didn’t write about digital strategy, but his poems drone on in the earnest monotone of an old-school sociology lecturer who—after years of correcting student papers—decides to try his hand at fine letters. Hesiod is ace at conveying fact, but not at re-inventing it. This makes him a fine chronicler, but not a poet. I cannot imagine anyone reading Works and Days today for anything other than anthropological curiosity. I don’t remember all 800 lines of Works and Days—just five stanzas: one for each of the Five Ages of Men. First came the Golden Age, in which the land was bounteous, the …

‘Girls Need Female Role Models’ and Other Bromides

There are a handful of dictums in the modern feminist discourse that are so omnipresent, so incontrovertible, so apparently obvious, that, whenever they are pronounced, the only appropriate reaction is enthusiastic head-bobbing. Or, if you prefer, solemn brow-knitting. Like two plus two equals four, these dictums are axioms, not to be discussed, let alone contested. Challenge them, however, and you’ll see how easily they fall apart. For example, consider the adage “What will we tell our daughters?” Each time I hear this phrase, I remember Emmeline Grangerford from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Miss Grangerford spent her short life writing funereal poetry and died of disappointment, aged fifteen, after failing to compose a satisfactory eulogy for a deceased neighbour called Whistler because she couldn’t find a word to rhyme with his name. What will we tell our daughters? Why not tell them the same thing we will tell our sons, our friends and colleagues, our Thursday night poker group—and that should be whatever is the fairest and most honest analysis of the situation. What …