Dorothy Winifred Gibson (1889-1946) is arguably one of the most fascinating women of the twentieth century. Her story is more than deserving of its own film or TV show and yet, if it was to ever appear on the screen, … Continue reading
While wartime films did open up passage of gender exploration for both film-makers and audiences, the war itself meant that the discourse could not be as radical or far-reaching as some might have hoped. For the sake of both national … Continue reading
The question of female identity inevitably encouraged both film-makers and audiences to explore ideas of masculinity, in particular the relationship between heroism and men in non-combatant roles. If men had to fight to prove their masculinity, what did that mean … Continue reading
A crucial concern of the wartime discourse on gender was that of duty versus desire, explored in the melodramas and Brief Encounter. L. K. Gordon of Leicester wrote to the Leicester Evening Mail in 1943 stating that ‘the war had … Continue reading
The anxious discourse on female mobilisation during the war also concerned the perceived necessity of protecting the femininity of these women. Gender distinctions rest largely on appearance, thus “these trouser-clad androgynies destabilised the polarisation upon which gendered identity normally rested”. … Continue reading
Categories of social difference are identified by how they juxtapose each other. Women are women because they are not men; masculine is masculine because it is not feminine. Gender is perceived in binary terms and this relationship is highlighted in … Continue reading
Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, c. 429BC, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King was first performed at the Athenian Dionysia. Audiences listened with morbid fascination as a messenger revealed the awful suicide of Oedipus’ wife and mother, Jocasta, and … Continue reading
This year marks the centennial of the First World War: an epic, transformative global conflict that lasted just over four years and claimed the lives of seventeen million soldiers and civilians. Today, there are no living survivors of the Great War; we must rely solely on collective memory to understand what happened amid the blood and the mud, the writing and the waiting, one hundred years ago.
There is, of course, an inherent problem with this. The British remember the war in a particular way; as, indeed, every country involved does. For us, the war was futile, horrific, catastrophic – a war of ‘lions led by donkeys’ – that stripped our country of its bravest and brightest. Interestingly, this was not the common belief in the immediate aftermath of the war; this idea only really gained traction during the economic slump of the 1920s. But despite this fact, and even in the face of a recent boom in scholarship around the First World War, there has been little impact on popular remembrance. The war is still understood in Britain as the ‘bad war’ – especially in contrast to its successor – and this over-arching narrative is emphasised and promulgated by popular culture.
It is the year 308 BC; fifteen years after the death of Alexander the Great. During this time, his empire has been unofficially divided between his closest companions: Ptolemy, a Macedonian general and one of Alexander’s oldest friends, has control of Egypt; the one-eyed general Antigonus has Asia Minor and Syria, and Cassander – son of the late great general Antipater – has forcefully taken over as regent of Macedonia and the Greek city states. This arrangement, however, is far from secure and intermittent, bloody war rages throughout Alexander’s lands.
In Sardis, the capital city of Lydia (situated in modern-day Turkey), Cleopatra of Macedon plots her escape. She has been living as a guest-prisoner with Antigonus for more than ten years. She is a princess – the full sister of Alexander the Great. By now she is about fifty years old. Most of her family is dead – mother, father, brother and half-siblings all having met untimely deaths. Somehow, word has reached her that Ptolemy, ruler of Egypt and a childhood friend of her brother’s, has asked for her hand in marriage. Despite having rejected the proposals of many of Alexander’s other generals, she accepts. This is where we find her, attempting to make her way south to Egypt.
She never makes it. Antigonus’s men find her and she is brought back to Sardis, imprisoned and killed. The question is, why?