Where is my safe zone in the Ancient World? Where is it in the Modern one?

Classical Mythology Too Triggering for Columbia Students

Roman and Greek mythology “contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom,” students say.


It seems that a teacher at Columbia was approached by students who wanted a SAFE ZONE, or at least deserved a TRIGGER WARNING when taking a mythology class and reading Ovid.  To be frank, I have very little patience when a student feels bruised by reality.  As someone that was learning about Roman and Greek myths in 6th grade (though I admit a bit sanitized for a child’s sensitivity), it seems to me that college students would be made of sterner stuff. 

The students complained that Ovid was upsetting. This poet is known for The Metamorphoses, 250 mythological stories set in a narrative poem of 15 books.  It has inspired Dante, Chaucer and Shakespeare.  The words and imagery should be studied by those involved in literature and the history of the ancient world. 

This is part of the OP-ED that appeared in the student paper:   

“During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.”

I could make an argument that her being dismissed, is a teaching moment in itself.  I am also concerned that a student who was at Columbia had no idea what kind of subjects were in Greek and Roman Mythology.  However, if she needs a trigger warning for this class, she is going to need a trigger warning for a variety of other subjects:  psychology (there’s some pretty hair raising stuff in those textbooks), and history is filled with some pretty scary stuff.  How is she going to handle subjects such as the Rape of Nanjing or the Fall of Berlin? 

Mors est A.P. Style dux