Pagan Meditations: The Worlds of Aphrodite, Artemis and Hestia


Review By David L. Miller Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Her truly remarkable work on the mythemes of three Greek religious figures is frankly feminist in perspective, but imaginably feminist and polytheistically so. "We are all Greek," she writes (3), and she means by this to include the aphroditic, artemisian, and hestian aspects of men as well as women (192). Paris writes: “There are as many feminisms as goddesses” (199) and she adds: “I do no think of polytheism as superior to monotheism – that would be contradictory” (198). True to these assertions, the text avoids literalisms and nominalisms. …Sensitive to the fact that “it is uninteresting if one only wishes to imitate the Greeks” (172), indeed, was uninteresting as imitatio Christi, Paris’ purpose is to make mythemes available “as a focus for questioning ourselves [individually and socially], for creating images” (172). … The word “meditations” in the title is apt and should be read in the sense associated with Martin Heidegger and Marcus Aurelius. When Heidegger contrasted meditative with calculative thinking in his “Memorial Address” for Conradin Kreutzer in 1955, he claimed for the former the qualities of an “openness for mystery” and a “releasement toward things,” i.e., a humility in the face of the anxiety for certainty and control which could be correlated to a sensitivity for the body experience, qualities Heidegger thought were lacking in the encroaching sociologizing and scientizing of an-aesthetic life and thought in the academy. That Paris’ work is meditative in this Heideggerian sense is especially seen in the way she handles the myth/history problematic. “The entanglement of history and myth is only embarrassing, “ she writes, “when we try at all costs to hold to the facts rather than to the spirit” (157). … Such modality leads Paris, and the reader, into a sensus communis that is reminiscent not only of Heidegger’s characterization, but also of the actual quality of text in the case of Marcus’ Meditations. Like Marcus’ writing, this work is an essay…Indeed to this reviewer that the essay may well represent the mode, more and more, of thinking on the frontier as well as on the margins. One may recall other recent works: Anne Carson’s Eros, an Essay. James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games, and Susan Sontag’s, essay on Roland Barthes. These move the marbles. Besides Marcus Aurelius, there are Emerson, Montaigne, and the zuihitsu of the fourteenth-century Japanese writer Kenko … Paris’ book belongs to this company of the scholarly essay… This book is not without passion and body … In fact, this meditative essay, in the view of this reader, demonstrates its author’s saying: “More complexity, fewer complexes.”

This book is Paris's contribution to "imaginative" feminism.