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Reminiscences of a Student's Life

Reminiscences of a Student's Life

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By Jane Ellen Harrison

The arch, witty, outspoken memoirs of the pioneering archaeologist and scholar Mary Beard has called “my hero.”

First published by Virginia and Leonard Woolf in 1925, Jane Ellen Harrison’s Reminiscences are the irreverent memoirs of a student who declared Victorian education “ingeniously useless,” who blazed a trail for female scholars, and who changed the way we see the ancient world. Growing up in the Yorkshire countryside, Harrison showed an early aptitude for languages: by the age of seventeen, with the help of a governess, she had learned Greek, Latin, German, and some Hebrew. (“Unfortunately, having no guide, we began with the Psalms, which are hard nuts to crack.”) She went on to become the most influential Classicist of her generation. Drawing on the insights of Nietzsche, Bergson, and Freud, and on archaeological research, she helped to revolutionize the study of Greek myth. “The great Mother,” she wrote, “is prior to male divinities.”

Unconventional in her private life (“By what miracle I escaped marriage I do not know, for all my life I fell in love”), she spent her later years with the poet and novelist Hope Mirrlees, thirty-seven years her junior. Harrison’s zest for life is everywhere in these pages. Sprightly, amused, and amusing, her Reminiscences form an unforgettable sketch of a woman ahead of her time.

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