Anxiety Veiled: Euripides and the Traffic in Women

Anxiety Veiled: Euripides and the Traffic in Women

Anxiety Veiled: Euripides and the Traffic in Women

Anxiety Veiled: Euripides and the Traffic in Women

Synopsis

What should we make of the prominence of female characters in the plays of Euripides? Not, Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz concludes, that he was either a misogynist or a feminist before his time. Tracking the relationship between male anxiety and female desire in his drama, she demonstrates in this rich and incisive book that Euripides' plays support a structure of male dominance while simultaneously inscribing female strength.

Excerpt

"Where to stand? Who to be?" These questions, formulated by Hélène Cixous, have a special resonance for the feminist critic who is simultaneously a Hellenist. What is the place of feminist criticism in classics? What is the place of Greek tragedy in feminist criticism? Others have raised similar questions, but the problems are not easily solved. There are such radical differences between the two disciplines that they hardly speak the same language. In particular, while classics claims to be an empirical field of study, without a perspective, feminism is avowedly a perspective, a way of looking at the world. Whatever the variance between academic feminism and activist feminism, neither sounds remotely like the articles in classics journals. Nonetheless, I intend this book to be part of a conversation between feminist theory and the classics, a conversation I see as mutually beneficial.

Writing the book has been made difficult not only by this vexed relationship between feminism (or women's studies) and classics but also by what is happening within feminism. It seems that each phase of the contemporary women's movement has brought its own difficulties in "speaking as a feminist; there was a time not so long ago when the rediscoveries of modern women authors made me feel both envious of those doing the discovering and apologetic about working on a canonized male author. Indeed, at a conference in the early 1980s, a distinguished feminist theorist asked my Chaucerian colleague and me if we didn't work on these authors because we wanted to sleep with the father. More recently, postmodern feminists and women of color have challenged the monolithic and universalizing claims of early feminists; although I am not nostalgic for the primordial illo tempore, these challenges have also made it more difficult . . .

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