The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy

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Oxford University Press, Feb 14, 1991 - Literary Criticism - 288 pages
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The pervasive and unrestrained use of obscenity has long been acknowledged as a major feature of fifth-century Attic Comedy; no other Western art form relies so heavily on the sexual and scatological dimensions of language. This acclaimed book, now in a new edition, offers both a comprehensive discussion of the dynamics of Greek obscenity and a detailed commentary on the terminology itself. After contrasting the peculiar characteristics of the Greek notion of obscenity to modern-day ideas, Henderson discusses obscenity's role in the development of Attic Comedy, its historical origins, varieties, and dramatic function. His analysis of obscene terminology sheds new light on Greek culture, and his discussion of Greek homosexuality offers a refreshing corrective to the idealized Platonic view. He also looks in detail at the part obscenity plays in each of Aristophanes' eleven surviving plays. The latter part of the book identifies all the obscene terminology found in the extant examples of Attic Comedy, both complete plays and fragments. Although these terminological entries are arranged in numbered paragraphs resembling a glossary, they can also be read as independent essays on the various aspects of comic obscenity. Terms are explained as they occur in each individual context and in relation to typologically similar terminology. With newly corrected and updated philological material, this second edition of Maculate Muse will serve as an invaluable reference work for the study of Greek drama.
 

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Contents

1 Obscene Language and the Development of Attic Comedy
1
An Overview
30
3 The Dramatic Function of Obscenity in the Plays of Aristophanes
56
4 The Sexual Organs
108
5 Sexual Congress
151
6 Scatological Humor
187
7 Homosexuality
204
Appendix
223
Bibliography
229
Addenda Corrigenda Retractanda
240
Index of Specially Discussed Passages
253
Index of Greek Words
255
General Index
265
Copyright

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Page x - Humanities may be used to promote, disseminate, or produce materials which in the judgment of the National Endowment of the Arts or National Endowment for the Humanities may be considered obscene, including but not limited to, depictions of sadomasochism, homo-eroticism, the sexual exploitation of children, or individuals engaged in sex acts and which, when taken as a whole, do not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.
Page x - None of the funds authorized to be appropriated for the National Endowment for the Arts . . . may be used to promote, disseminate, or produce materials which in the judgment of the National Endowment for the Arts . . . may be considered obscene, including, but not limited to, depictions of sadomasochism, homoeroticism, the sexual exploitation of children, or individuals engaged in...
Page xiv - The obscenity in Aristophanes is almost always integrally connected with the main themes of the plays; it is an important part of the stage action, the development of plots, and the characterization of personae, and can no more readily be excised from the plays than can any other major dramatic or poetic ingredients.
Page xiii - Obscene humor has always been something of an embarrassment to writers on ancient comedy. ... To this day there has been no study that attempts comprehensively to elucidate, evaluate, or even to discuss the nature and function of sexual and scatological language in Attic Comedy.

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