Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome

By Amy Richlin | Go to book overview

4
The Mute Nude Female Characters in Aristophanes' Plays

Bella Zweig

Considering the issue of the mute, nude female characters that have cameo appearances in many of Aristophanes' plays from the perspective of pornographic representation entails many problems, both of ancient scholarly criticism and of modern interpretation. Historically, the short, nonspeaking role assigned to these characters has resulted in comparably short scholarly attention to their dramatic and cultural significance. Classical scholarship has focused, in the words of Cedric Whitman ( 1964: 112), on "a minor, but enthusiastic, philological controversy," namely, were these characters portrayed by male actors in padded costume or by real, nude hetairai? 1 However enthusiastic the debate, and regardless of which position they espouse, critics curiously continue to discuss the thematic or dramatic significance of these scenes without regard to whether they were played by padded actors or real live women.

The situation is hardly better in the area of modern interpretations of pornography, where the scholarly literature is divided on both its definition and significance. How, or whether, one can distinguish between erotica and pornography continues in debate. Feminist, sociological, and psychoanalytical interpretations drastically oppose each other and are as often divided intra- as well as interdiscipline. Finally, once a coherent approach is proposed, whether it could validly be applied to the ancient material remains a serious question.

Undaunted by these multiple complexes of scholarly problems, I attempt in this chapter to accomplish several things. I first examine the role of the mute, nude female characters in Aristophanes' plays in their appropriate dramatic, religious, and societal contexts. I then briefly review some salient points in the modern debate

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Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Time Line of Events, Sources, and Persons Discussed xxiv
  • 1: Pornography and Persuasion on Attic Pottery 3
  • Notes 34
  • 2: Tragedy and the Politics of Containment 36
  • Notes 51
  • 3: Eros in Love: Pederasty and Pornography in Greece 53
  • Notes 72
  • 4: The Mute Nude Female Characters in Aristophanes' Plays 73
  • Notes 88
  • Appendix Texts Relating to the Writers of Sexual Handbooks 108
  • Notes 109
  • 6: The Body Female and the Body Politic: Livy's Lucretia and Verginia 112
  • Notes 129
  • 7: The Domestication of Desire: Ovid's Parva Tabella and the Theater of Love 131
  • Notes 155
  • Notes 158
  • Notes 178
  • Notes 179
  • 9: Death as Decoration: Scenes from the Arena on Roman Domestic Mosaics 180
  • Notes 208
  • 10: Callirhoe 212
  • 11: Sweet and Pleasant Passion: Female and Male Fantasy in Ancient Romance Novels 231
  • Notes 249
  • 12: The Edible Woman: Athenaeus's Concept of the Pornographic 250
  • Conclusion 266
  • Notes 269
  • Notes 269
  • Notes 283
  • Bibliography 285
  • Contributors 313
  • Index 315
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