Spoken Like a Woman: Speech and Gender in Athenian Drama

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1999 Hardcover 8vo, hardcover. New in dust jacket. Bright, crisp & clean, unread. 293 p.

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Overview

In ancient Athens, where freedom of speech derived from the power of male citizenship, women's voices were seldom heard in public. Female speech was more often represented in theatrical productions through women characters written and enacted by men. In Spoken Like a Woman, the first book-length study of women's speech in classical drama, Laura McClure explores the discursive practices attributed to women of fifth-century b.c. Greece and to what extent these representations reflected a larger reality. Examining tragedies and comedies by a variety of authors, she illustrates how the dramatic poets exploited speech conventions among both women and men to construct characters and to convey urgent social and political issues.

From gossip to seductive persuasion, women's verbal strategies in the theater potentially subverted social and political hierarchy, McClure argues, whether the women characters were overtly or covertly duplicitous, in pursuit of adultery, or imitating male orators. Such characterization helped justify the regulation of women's speech in the democratic polis. The fact that women's verbal strategies were also used to portray male transvestites and manipulators, however, suggests that a greater threat of subversion lay among the spectators' own ranks, among men of uncertain birth and unscrupulous intent, such as demagogues skilled in the art of persuasion. Traditionally viewed as outsiders with ambiguous loyalties, deceitful and tireless in their pursuit of eros, women provided the dramatic poets with a vehicle for illustrating the dangerous consequences of political power placed in the wrong hands.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A useful, occasionally provocative overview of the politics of gendered diction."Choice
Choice
A useful, occasionally provocative overview of the politics of gendered diction.
Choice
A useful, occasionally provocative overview of the politics of gendered diction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691017303
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/9/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 331
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Laura McClure is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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Table of Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ix
NOTE ON ABBREVIATIONS xi
CHAPTER ONE The City of Words: Speech in the Athenian Polis 3
Speech and the Construction of Civic Identity 8
Speech in the neater of Dionysus 15
The Silence of Athenian Women 19
Women as Speakers in Athenian Drama 24
Summary of Chapters 29
CHAPTER TWO Gender and Verbal Genres in Ancient Greece 32
Ancient Observations about Women's Speech 38
Lamentation 40
Aischrologia 47 Choruses of Girls and Women 52
Gossip and Volubility 56
Seductive Persuasion 62
Conclusion 68
CHAPTER THREE Logos Gunaikos: Speech and Gender in Aeschylus' Oresteia 70
The Male Chorus as Internal Audience 72
Gender and Performance: Clytemnestra's Shifting Verbal Genres 73
Clytemnestra's Binding Song 80
The Lament of Cassandra 92
Clytemnestra's Heroic Speech and the Feminized Chorus 97
Speech and Gender in the Choephori 100
Orestes and judicial Speech 104
Women's Speech in the Pairs: The Eumenides 105
Conclusion 111
CHAPTER FOUR At the House Door: Phaedra and the Politics of Reputation 112
Phaedra's Concern for Reputation 116
Eros and Illusion: Aphrodite's Prologue 119
Hippolytus and the Language of Prayer 121
Women's Traffic in Speech.- The Chorus 123
Phaedra's Shameful Speech 125
Eros and Rhetoric: Phaedra's Great Speech 127
The Nurse's Charm of Speech 135
Hippolytus' Invective against Women 142
The Agon and judicial Discourse 146
The Song of Girls and the Laments of Men 153
Conclusion 157
CHAPTER FIVE Women's Wordy Strife: Gossip and Invective in Euripides' Andromache 158
The Status of Speech in the Andromache 161
Spartan Women and Their Speech 164
Hermione's False Accusations 168
Female Nature on Trial: The First Agon 170
The Male Intruder: The Second Agon 183
Helen and the Education of Women: The Third Agon 186
Hermione's Invective against Women 193
Slander: The Male Disease 198
Rescuing Marriage: Peleus and Thetis 201
Conclusion 203
CHAPTER SIX Obscenity, Gender, and Social Status in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae and Ecclsiazusae 205
Gender and Comic Obscenity 206
Ritual and the Origins of Comic Obscenity 215
Comic Masculinity: The Relative in the Thesmophoriazusae 218
Rendering the Female: The Relative's Flawed Performance 226
Rhetoric and Obscenity at the Thesmophoria 228
The Scythian Archer and the Recovery of Masculinity 235
A Female Rhetor: Praxagora in the Ecclesiazusae 236
Blepyrus' Scatological Obscenity 246
Speech in the Gynaecocracy 248
The Speech of Older Women 253
Conclusion 258
CHAPTER SEVEN Conclusion 260
BIBLIOGRAPHY 265
INDEX 285

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Recipe

"Spoken Like a Woman is excellently grounded in recent work on social history, in particular on the social regulation of women's speech in classical Athens. The discussions of individual plays are original and illuminating. The book will be indispensable reading for those researching women in Greek drama or gender in ancient literature."—Edith Hall, Somerville College, Oxford

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