Changing Bodies, Changing Meanings: Studies on the Human Body in Antiquity

Changing Bodies, Changing Meanings: Studies on the Human Body in Antiquity

Changing Bodies, Changing Meanings: Studies on the Human Body in Antiquity

Changing Bodies, Changing Meanings: Studies on the Human Body in Antiquity

Synopsis

This collection of papers gathers together expertise in archaeology, classical literature, patristics and the cultural reception of antiquity to present a fully-rounded picture of the cultural status of the human body in the ancient world. The essays, unified by the theme of the changing body, address the diversity and complexity of attitudes, practices and contexts to explore the plurality of the ancient body. They examine how the different ways in which the body altered could be a means of conveying ideologies and of experiencing the self. A wide variety of times and places within antiquity are discussed, including classical Greece, Augustan Rome, New Kingdom Egypt and the world of late antiquity.This book is the first to place at its centre the emotional and experiential aspect of the body in antiquity. The interdisciplinary interests of the contributors, the application of current theoretical perspectives and the utilisation of many sources never before translated into a modern language, make this work a unique contribution to a growing field of enquiry.

Excerpt

Dominic Montserrat

Man Transform’d, or The Artificiall Changeling; A view of the people of the Whole World or, a short survey of their Policies, Dispositions, Naturall Deportments, Complexions, Ancient and Moderne Customes, Manners, Habits and Fashions. A Worke every where adorned with Philosophicall, Morall and Historicall Observations on the Occasions of their Mutations and Changes throughout all Ages.

The seventeenth-century physician John Bulwer’s book, better known by its neologistic classical title Anthropometamorphosis, ‘humanity-changing’, provided the inspiration for a conference held in the Classics Department at Warwick University in April 1994. The papers delivered there are the nucleus of this collection. The idea unifying the contributions was to adopt a form of Bulwer’s methodology, and approach the body in the ancient world through a single aspect: different types of modification, which was to be defined in the broadest sense. The conference itself was a response to the growing awareness of the problematic status of the human body, particularly the ancient body, as an historiographical category. In some ways, the study of the ancient body is developing along lines comparable with early studies of ancient women: indeed, much scholarship on the body in antiquity has a direct link with the study of sex and gender, though by and large it has avoided the same methodological pitfalls. Recent studies on the ancient body are withdrawing from the idea of ‘the body’ as an undifferentiated, nomothetic category (as ‘women’ were considered) and are beginning to examine the diversity and complexity of attitudes, practices and contexts. Concentrating on ideas surrounding change, modification and transition seemed to be an interesting way of exploring the plurality of the ancient body. Speakers were asked to think about . . .

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