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Beauty and the Beast: Femininity, animals and humour in Greek Middle Comedy
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS). (UCGS)
2011 (English)In: Classica et Mediaevalia, ISSN 0106-5815, Vol. December, no 62, 51-80 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Approximating humans to animals is a common technique deployed in Greek Literature starting as early as the Epics. In early performances of drama, the topsy turvy nature of Old Comedy encouraged the use of animal characters; choruses of animals, anthropomorphized animals, and animalized humans are common strategies used among Old Comedy playwrights. In Middle Comedy their dramatic use appears limited, yet they are not completely excluded from the repertoire. A number of similes are built around references to animals for both male and female characters. This technique (which draws on epic stylistics) produces social comments in humorous form, especially by assimilating women to tamed and untamed animals. This article explores these animalized manifestations of feminity in selected fragments of Middle Comedy, focusing on Eubulus’ Procris, Alexis’ Isostasion, and The Chorus, and Antilais by Epicrates. The animal references impart occasional ‘otherness’ to several female entities (γυναῖκες and ἑταῖραι), reinforcing the sense of difference from the ‘norm’,  whereas on other occasions they reconfirm the importance of females in the civic environment. Across these fragments, I show how animal imagery outlines gendered alterities within the context of normative Athenian ideology. Ultimately, I compare the semantics of animality and how it is humorously interwoven into femininity in Old and Middle Comedy. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Århus, Copenhagen, Denmark: Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen , 2011. Vol. December, no 62, 51-80 p.
Keyword [en]
Ancient History, Cultural Anthropology, Greek Linguistics, History of Ideas, Sociology, Humour, Animal Representation, Women, Feminism, Courtesans, Prostitutes, Gender Studies, Literary Techniques, Animal Similes, Greek Middle Comedy
National Category
Social Sciences Humanities
Research subject
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History; Cultural Anthropology; Greek; Linguistics; History; Sociology
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-47686OAI: diva2:443837
Available from: 2011-10-06 Created: 2011-09-27 Last updated: 2012-11-20Bibliographically approved

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Foka, Anna
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