Jane Ellen Harrison bigraphy, stories - Classical scholar, linguist, feminist

Jane Ellen Harrison : biography

9 September 1850 - 15 April 1928

Jane Ellen Harrison (9 September 1850 – 15 April 1928) was a British classical scholar, linguist and feminist. Harrison is one of the founders, with Karl Kerenyi and Walter Burkert, of modern studies in Greek mythology. She applied 19th century archaeological discoveries to the interpretation of Greek religion in ways that have become standard. Contemporary classics scholar Mary Beard, Harrison's biographer, has described her as "in a way ... [Britain's] first female professional 'career academic'".Mary Beard A Don's Life blog, The Times website, 22 May 2009.


American humanities scholar Camille PagliaSee Paglia's Sexual Personae (passim), and the long essay "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf" in Paglia's Sex, Art and American Culture: New Essays. has often written of Harrison's influence on her own work. Paglia argues that Harrison's career has been ignored by second wave feminists who object to Harrison's findings, and who, ironically, seek to efface the careers of prominent pre-WWII female scholars to bolster their claims of male domination in academe.

Personal life

Harrison was born in Cottingham, Yorkshire on 9 September 1850. Her mother died shortly after she was born and she was educated by a series of governesses. These governesses taught Harrison German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew, but she later expanded her knowledge to about sixteen languages, including Russian. Harrison spent most of her professional life at Newnham, the progressive, recently-established college for women at Cambridge. At Newnham, one of her students was Eugenie Sellers, the writer and poet, with whom she lived in England and later in Paris and possibly even had a relationship with in the late 1880s. Between 1880 and 1897 Harrison studied Greek art and archaeology at the British Museum under Sir Charles Newton. Harrison then supported herself lecturing at the museum and at schools (mostly private boy's schools). Her lectures became widely popular and 1600 people ended up attending her Glasgow lecture on Athenian gravestones. She traveled to Italy and Germany, where she met the scholar from Prague, Wilhelm Klein. Klein introduced her to Wilhelm Dörpfeld who invited her to participate in his archaeological tours in Greece. Her early book The Odyssey in Art and Literature then appeared in 1882. Harrison met the scholar D. S. MacColl, who supposedly asked her to marry her and she declined. Harrison then suffered a severe depression and started to study the more primitive areas of Greek art in an attempt to cure herself. In 1888 Harrison began to publish in the periodical that Oscar Wilde was editing called Woman's World on "The Pictures of Sappho." Harrison also ended up translating Mythologie figurée de la Grèce (1883) by Maxime Collignon as well as provding personal commentary to selections of Pausanias, Mythology & Monuments of Ancient Athens by Margaret Verrall in the same year. These two major works caused Harrison to be awarded honorary degrees from the universities of Durham (1897) and Aberdeen (1895). Harrison was supposed to marry the scholar R.A. Neil, but was unable to as he died in 1901 before they could be married. She became the central figure of the group known as the Ritualists at Cambridge, and in 1903 her book Prolegomena on the Study of Greek Religion appeared. Harrison became close to Francis MacDonald Cornford (1874-1943), and when he was married in 1909 she became extremely upset. She made a new friendship with Hope Mirlees who she referred to as her "spiritual daughter". Harrison retired from Newnham in 1922 and then moved to Paris to live with Mirrlees. She and Mirrlees returned to London in 1925 where she was able to publish her memoirs through Leonard and Virginia Woolf's press, The Hogarth Press. She died three years later at her house in Bloomsbury and is now buried in St Marylebone cemetery, East Finchley. "Jane Harrison - Dictionary of Art Historians." Jane Harrison - Dictionary of Art Historians. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. Harrison was an atheist.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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