The Feminine Matrix of Sex and Gender in Classical Athens
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In The Feminine Matrix of Sex and Gender in Classical Athens, Kate Gilhuly explores the relationship between the prostitute, the wife, and the ritual performer in Athenian literature. She suggests that these three roles formed a symbolic continuum that served as an alternative to a binary conception of gender in classical Athens and provided a framework for assessing both masculine and feminine civic behavior. Grounded in close readings of four texts, "Against Neaira," Plato's Symposium, Xenophon's Symposium, and Aristophanes' Lysistrata, this book draws upon observations from gender studies and the history of sexuality in ancient Greece to illuminate the relevance of these representations of women to civic behavior, pederasty, philosophy, and politics. In these original readings, Gilhuly casts a new light on the complexity of the classical Athenian sex/gender system, demonstrating how various and even opposing strategies worked together to articulate different facets of the Athenian subject.
preconditions for the discourse that follows. This combination of presence and absence finds its counterpart in the priestess Diotima, a persona Socrates evokes to explain his system of homoerotics. Thus, in Plato’s Symposium the women of Agathon’s house are produced as an absence through a negotiation of the prostitute and priestess. The bodily sexuality of the auletris must be banished for Socrates to leverage the discursive power of the priestess’s authority. At the same time he evokes a
another when he incorporates a reference to Pausanias’ erotic distinctions between “pandemian” and “ouranian” love from Plato’s text into his own (8.9). The passing reference that Xenophon’s Socrates makes to the two types of eros has an interesting bearing on the balance between the transcendent and the material in the two texts. Where Xenophon’s text depicts the hired entertainers as they interact with the symposiasts, the auletris, or hired aulos-player, is sent out in Plato’s Symposium before
text as a circumscribed entity – merely an image that in fact lacks the very material plenitude that the auletris signifies.13 The auletris, in contrast to the women within, is eminently suitable for representation; in this instance, she serves to gesture toward extra-philosophic feminine realms. Her dismissal unveils the exclusions that constitute the masculine space of the symposium and suggests that the material absence and discursive presence of women are necessary preconditions to the
have religious undertones, Kallias is flattering the philosophers by implying they will add a transcendent aura to his dining room. In another way, he objectifies Socrates and his cohorts – he wants them at his symposium as ornaments for his dining room (¾ ndrÜn kekosmhmnov eh), not because he has any real interest in what they will say. His wording also implies a polemical background for the gathering. Another meaning for kataskeu is military preparation, and kosmw can mean to draw up into
lest that powerful armament, with all the splendor and vigor which were so manifest in it, should speedily wither away and come to naught. (Nic. 13.7 trans. Perrin)15 The loss and deprivation the women endured because of Athenian lust for empire is famously and poignantly articulated elsewhere in the play: the women claim the right to advise the city because they contribute sons to the city, ndrav e«sfrw (651), they lose them, and they are denied the possibility of enjoying their own sexual