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Silence and the Silenced

Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Edited By Leslie Boldt, Corrado Federici and Ernesto Virgulti

Silence and the Silenced: Interdisciplinary Perspectives comprises a collection of essays from North American and European scholars who examine the various ways in which the theme of silence is developed in literary narratives as well as in such visual media as photography, film, painting, and architecture. The questions of silence and the presence or absence of voice are also explored in the arena of performance, with examples relating to pantomime and live installations. As the book title indicates, two fundamental aspects of silence are investigated: silence freely chosen as a means to deepen meditation and inner reflection and silence that is imposed by external agents through various forms of political repression and censorship or, conversely, by the self in an attempt to express revolt or to camouflage shame. The approaches to these questions range from the philosophical and the psychological to the rhetorical and the linguistic. Together, these insightful reflections reveal the complexity and profundity that surround the function of silence and voice in an aesthetic and social context.


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Part VI. Classical and Medieval Silence: Poets, Saints, Mistresses


15. When Must a Singer Be Silenced? Anton Jansen Is censorship ever justified? Different answers to this question are encoun- tered in several ancient Greek sources. In Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey (ca. 750 B.C) a number of scenes define aspects of the ancient Greek take on censorship. To the Greeks the essential aspect of censorship was its treatment of the singer (aoidos). This is a term that refers to any person who presents material orally. The later term poet (poietes) is somewhat more inclusive since it includes people who work in other media. Nevertheless, the terms are almost interchangeable to the ancient Greeks. Was such an individual, usual- ly seen as blessed with the gift of second sight or divine inspiration for his words, free to say what he felt and thought? Homer shows us that, whether it is justified or not, censorship is simply going to happen. The singer’s ability to be heard is always socially constrained in Homer’s works. Only certain people have the right to speak at certain occasions. In Homer the rules are very different for nobles (aristoi) and singers (aoidoi). Nobles have the greatest freedom to speak followed by singers. Commoners are even more constrained as far as speech is concerned. A more direct answer to the initial question is found in what is perhaps the most famous ancient Greek answer to the question of censorship, the one found in Plato’s Republic (ca. 380 BC). Plato sees poetic and artistic inspira- tion as a danger...

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