The novel Cassandra began when Wolf delivered a series of lectures on poetics at Frankfurt University in 1982. She did not present the expected scholarly analysis of poetics, but instead she delivered a series of four talks, including two “Travel Reports,” “A Work Diary,” and a “Letter.” These lectures explained how Wolf became interested in the figure of Cassandra. Her fifth lecture was the narrative of Cassandra itself. Wolf often refused to play by academic rules.
Like Euripides’ Triades (415 b.c.e.; The Trojan Women, 1782), Cassandra is told from the perspective of the vanquished survivors of the Trojan War, with Wolf describing the obliteration of the people and culture of Troy in 1200 b.c.e. Cassandra’s interior monologue as she awaits her death at the gates of Agamemnon’s fortress takes her back in memory to Troy. She remembers peaceful scenes of a society balanced between matriarchy and patriarchy, a balance represented by the closeness and mutual counsel of her mother, Hecuba, and her father, Priam. Cassandra recalls how the war destroyed that delicate balance; matriarchal vision and patriarchal political power vied with one another and the patriarchy eventually won.
Wolf’s antiwar message is evident in her portrayal of the real reasons for war. Rejecting the Trojan War as a battle caused by the beauty of Helen...
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