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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 7. Renditions of the Female Voice

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← 170 | 171 →

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RENDITIONS OF THE FEMALE VOICE

These idylls have provided an opportunity to examine how this Hellenistic poet viewed and represented women. Theocritus created depictions placing women in settings which may have been problematic to his Alexandrian audience, but also capture our interest as they illustrate ageless human predicaments, solutions to which we seek as well. Some females were placed in difficult erotic relationships and others in situations which provide windows into his views of gendered roles such as mother and queen. The poet strategically engaged his audience through descriptive ambiguity and hyperbole. His treatment of eros is one in which the whole world reverberates with the human impact of love’s joys and sorrows. These literary techniques combined with the fairytale qualities of many of his poems likely drew the contemporary literati into the challenges they had in maintaining personal equanimity while in the throes of love and us as we address our own romantic affairs. The approach taken to the female portrayals followed a two-step process. A comprehensive methodology was used in the first instance to elicit the voices and in the second to evaluate the validity of the voice as female and to determine its origin.

Theocritus presented a socially diverse set of women including housewives, queens, mothers, deities, rustics, and urbanites. I have placed the depictions in broad representational groupings based primarily on their erotic content. ← 171 | 172 → One cluster contained renderings of a wide range of...

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