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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 3. Mimes

Extract

← 78 | 79 →

· 3 ·

MIMES

The Mimes are notable for their vivid portrayals of women in challenging situations. The gender related themes are reflective of sweeping changes in social relationships arising from the formative years of a multicultural Alexandria.1 These depictions of women likely elicited strong audience responses as their behaviors are often quite transgressive. For example, Simaetha a woman less tethered to any prevailing convention engages in a love affair and then tries to cope when it has failed. We are prodded to ask who she is, what role she had in the seduction, does she or not want Delphis back, and what harm would she inflict on her former lover?2 In Idyll Fourteen, Aeschinas is insulted publicly by the flighty Cynisca, loses face in front of his peers, and is unable to recoup his dignity. In Idyll Fifteen Gorgo and Praxinoa on a journey to a palace festival are singled out and criticized for their foreign Syracusan way of speaking. Praxinoa responds in a biting retort asserting an ethnic pride.

In Idyll Fifteen two housewives embark on an experience that I shall argue is a false katabasis. In the first part of the poem the housewives Gorgo and Praxinoa boldly traverse the streets of the city with its multi ethnic population challenged to prevent personal injury and protect their social integrity. They provide mundane commentary on an impressive palace spectacle and return home to their daily routine. ← 79 | 80 →

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