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Representations of Women in Theocritus’s Idylls

Authenticity of the Female Voice in the Erotic and Non-Erotic Portrayals

Marilyn Likosky

Hellenistic poet Theocritus showcased a wide variety of women and their relationships to men in his work. Representations of Women in Theocritus’s Idylls: Authenticity of the Female Voice in the Erotic and Non-Erotic Portrayals is the first comprehensive analysis of these women. This book uses a unique and widely inclusive set of tools derived from gender studies, literary criticism, and Hellenistic history to extract the voices of females, as most are silent themselves and spoken for by others. This analysis questions the validity of the female voice and determines authenticity through a method derived from Lacanian psychoanalysis. Author Marilyn Likosky identifies a female erotic voice that according to criteria is not attributed to a woman but rather to the imagination of the male responding to perceived risks in engaging with a female at a time in which she received greater liberties. Theocritus explores a number of candidate strategies for males to lessen disruptions from erotic encounters. Likosky identifies an ambiguity in the presentation of voice, finding it likely an intentional means for Theocritus to engage his audience in troublesome issues. This book supports academic seminars in gender studies, Hellenistic poetry, and literary criticism.

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Chapter 1. The Female Voice


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Preparing a critical analysis of Theocritus’s portrayals of women has been a significant undertaking in a life filled with learning and loving. Contemporary fascination with love and romance is not novel and the poet’s multi-dimensional treatment of eros provides glimpses of earlier responses to sexuality. Intriguing are the similarities and differences of men and women’s feelings in these idylls, whether silently or articulated when one compares them with our present western view. For example, today’s discourse, troubling as it may seem to us between the sexes, is absent in almost all of the scenarios. At the same time, there is a surprising expression present in many of the poems of an intense fear of engagement in romance, something we do not commonly see today. The poet’s treatment of the erotic is particularly interesting to the modern reader, as the romantic dilemmas depicted arise from cultural situations remote from our own experience. What impacts me the most about these poems is Theocritus’s perception of the power of eros in our lives and how it has the capability to overwhelm and disenable us, but be pleasurable as well. His exquisite portrayals of men and women in a variety of erotic encounters challenges us to question our own accommodation to eros. It has been an exciting opportunity to engage with Theocritus, address these puzzles, and by so doing enrich our own understanding of love. ← 1 | 2 →

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