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April 12, 2008, 2:30 PM

Opening Pandora's Box: From Ancient Sacrifice to Family Secrets

Participants: Harold Blum (moderator), Joan Branham, Lois Braverman, Kathryn Harrison, Victoria Pedrick

The ancient Greek myth of Pandora's Box has many significant historical, psychological, and cultural meanings, and numerous variations of the fable have appeared over the centuries. While the myth symbolizes unconscious and conscious conflicts concerning femininity, the broader theme of personal and familial secrets is also inherent in the narrative. In this regard, the hidden is often represented as dangerous, and the opposing desires to reveal as well as to conceal form a dynamic tension within the myth and its imagery. Pandora's Box has become a metaphor in our culture for the perilous consequences of natural (climatic) or man-made (nuclear) catastrophe. The discussion will investigate Pandora's Box as an imaginative construct, referencing psychoanalytic, art historical, religious, and interpersonal paradigms to explore the dimensions and power of the myth.

Harold Blum is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and a training analyst at the New York University School of Medicine. Currently, he serves as Executive Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives and is a distinguished fellow at the American Psychiatric Association. He is past President of the Psychoanalytic Research and Development fund, past Vice President of the International Psychoanalytical Association, and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. He is the author of several books and more than 150 psychoanalytic papers.

Joan Branham currently holds joint appointments as Acting Director of the Women's Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School and Associate Professor of Art History at Providence College. She also serves as Vice President and Chair of Fellowships for the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem. Her research interests and publications have focused on theories of sacred space, the relationship of gender, blood, and sacrifice in ancient Judaism and Christianity, and the art and archaeology of the Jerusalem Temple and late-antique synagogues and churches.

Lois Braverman is President and CEO of the Ackerman Institute for the Family. With many years of experience in education, consulting, and private practice, Ms. Braverman was most recently the President of the Board of Directors of the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA). Ms. Braverman's many publications and international presentations challenge the assumptions implicit in major schools of family therapy about women's role in the family, in the workplace, and in the psychotherapeutic setting. Her special areas of interest are women's friendships and marital relationships, depression and marital dynamics, couple therapy with marginalized couples, and issues of power in couple therapy. She was the founding editor of the Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, serves on the Board of Advisory Editors for Family Process, and is the author of Women, Feminism, and Family Therapy. She was honored with the American Family Therapy Academy Innovative Contribution to Family Therapy Award in 1994.

Kathryn Harrison is the author of the novels Thicker Than Water, Exposure, Poison, The Binding Chair, The Seal Wife, and Envy. Her nonfiction includes the memoirs The Kiss, The Mother Knot, and The Road to Santiago, as well as Seeking Rapture, a collection of personal essays, the biography St. Therese of Lisieux, and a true crime saga, While They Slept: An Inquiry into the Murder of a Family (forthcoming in 2008). She is a regular reviewer for The New York Times Book Review and her personal essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Vogue, More, O, and many other publications.

Victoria Pedrick is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Classics at Georgetown University. She received her PhD in Classics from the University of Cincinnati and has taught in the College of Georgetown University for many years. She teaches reading courses in both Greek and Roman authors as well as courses on ancient myth, on archaic epic, and on aspects of daily life such the lives of women and children. Her research specialties include the Homeric epics, Greek tragedy and fifth-century Athenian culture; she has written articles on both The Iliad and The Odyssey as well as on Sophocles and Catullus. She recently co-edited The Soul of Tragedy: Essays on Athenian Drama. Her book, Euripides, Freud and the Romance of Belonging appeared from The Johns Hopkins University Press in 2007.


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