Dissertation Corner with Isabell Dutch: Female Desire in The Odyssey and The Iliad

In this week’s Dissertation Corner we speak to Isabell Dutch about her project on Homer’s epic poems, The Odyssey and The Iliad!


1) Tell us about your dissertation, what is it about?

My dissertation is on female desire in The Odyssey and The Iliad .

2)   How did you choose the texts for your dissertation?

I’ve always had a love for Ancient Greek History and Mythology and I liked the idea of combining that with my love for literature. I studied The Odyssey during my A-Levels in Classical Civilizations and so was very familiar with the text, whereas I’d only read the Iliad once a few years ago. However both texts fit together and I wanted to compare representations of characters, like Helen who appears in both books. I think it’s best to pick texts you love and know as it cuts down a lot of your work, but it also keeps you passionate when researching.

3)   Has your project changed much since the proposal stage?

When writing my dissertation proposal, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include The Aeneid as well or what to look at inside the realm of ‘gender and sexuality’. Most of the changes I’ve made have been narrowing it down to make the project more succinct and easier to work with. When giving in my proposal I didn’t know what 8,000 words would entail. If I were going to write the project I first handed in I’d be buried under with work and definitely have to go miles over the word count!

4)   Why are you interested in this topic?

Gender and Sexuality is important to me and ancient Greek literature is very interesting to look at through this frame. Female desire was either vilified through figures like Aphrodite and Medusa or forgotten about completely as with Athena and Penelope.

5)   What have you enjoyed most about the project?

I love the free range and complete choice I have. Unlike my other modules, there’s no set text or topic that I have to include or write about. This is my dissertation so it’s my choice. I also am very thankful for the amount of support we get going throughout the process with the dissertation sessions on our timetable once every few weeks and knowing I can talk to my supervisor about any questions I might have.


6)   What has it been like working closely with an academic supervisor?

It’s been really helpful. Going into this I had no clue how to write a dissertation or how it was different (other than in length) to any other essay I’d done here at ysj. I see my supervisor on a regular basis and we go through my work and plans and he gives me ideas and keeps me on track. If I have any problems I can email him or book a tutorial.