Performance and Gender in Ancient Greece: Nondramatic Poetry in Its Setting

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Princeton University Press, 1997 - Literary Criticism - 367 pages
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"Like love, Greek poetry was not for hereafter," writes Eva Stehle, "but shared in the present mirth and laughter of festival, ceremony, and party." Describing how men and women, young and adult, sang or recited in public settings, Stehle treats poetry as an occasion for the performer's self-presentation. She discusses a wide range of pre-Hellenistic poetry, including Sappho's, compares how men and women speak about themselves, and constructs an innovative approach to performance that illuminates gender ideology. After considering the audience and the function of different modes of performance--community, bardic, and closed groups--Stehle explores this poetry as gendered speech, which interacts with performers' bodily presence to create social identities for the speakers. Texts for female choral performers reveal how women in public spoke in order to disavow the power of their speech and their sexual power. Male performers, however, could manipulate gender as an ideological system: they sometimes claimed female identity in addition to male, associated themselves with triumph over a defeated (mythical) female figure, or asserted their disconnection from women, thereby creating idealized social identities for themselves. A final chapter concentrates on the written poetry of Sappho, which borrows the communicative strategy of writing in order to create a fictional speaker distinct from the singer, a "Sappho" whom others could re-create in imagination.

Originally published in 1997.

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Community Poetry
Women in Performance in the Community
Male Performers in the Community
Bardic Poetry
The Symposium
Sapphos Circle
Chronology of Primary Sources
Transliterated Terms
Index Locorum
General Index

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Page xiii - Greece and Rome GRBS Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies HSCP Harvard Studies in Classical Philology JHS Journal of Hellenic Studies...
Page ix - I continue to thrive in the intellectual support of the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University...
Page 19 - The basic opposition is between efficacy and entertainment, not between ritual and theatre. Whether one calls a specific performance ritual or theatre depends on the degree to which the performance tends toward efficacy or entertainment.
Page 8 - The citizens are not naive bumpkins taken in by the leader's manipulation, but participants in a theatricality whose rules and roles they understand and enjoy. These are alert, even sophisticated, actors in a ritual drama affirming the establishment of a new civic order, and a renewed rapport among people, leader and protecting divinity.

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