Citizen Bacchae: Women's Ritual Practice in Ancient Greece

By Barbara Goff | Go to book overview

TWO
Ritual Management of Desire
The Reproduction of Sexuality

Certain theorists of women and religion have held that ritual addresses women exclusively on the topics of their sexual and reproductive work. For instance, Judith Hoch-Smith and Anita Spring observe:

Women draw sacred attention primarily in connection with their reproductive statuses…. In no religious system do women's dominant metaphors derive from characteristics other than their sexual and reproductive status…. Women are strikingly one-dimensional characters in mythology and ritual action.1

I have tried to show, in chapter 1, that ritual may address women in other aspects of their lives; but if we allow that within the ritual sphere sexuality and reproduction do make particular claims on our attention, it still remains to determine what propositions ritual articulates to its female subjects and to the wider community.

Since the work of Freud, the discourse of sexuality has become a powerful tool for explaining subjectivity. Psychoanalytic theory supposes that a viable subject emerges only as the product of repression, that is, of the organizing and sublimating of biological and instinctual drives. Freud's analyses notoriously fail to explain “woman, ” or to find out what she wants, but various versions of feminist theory have complicated his male-dominated narrative with accounts of the emergence of the female subject. To acquire a subjectivity at all, according to such feminist analysis, entails acquiring a gendered identity, and gender is not only a biological relation but a relation of political power, which in most known societies subordinates the female to

____________________
1
Hoch-Smith and Spring 1978: 1–2.

-77-

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Citizen Bacchae: Women's Ritual Practice in Ancient Greece
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Working Toward a Material Presence 25
  • Two - The Reproduction of Sexuality 77
  • Three - Imaginary Citizens 160
  • Four - Ritual as a Cultural Resource 227
  • Five - Ritual in Drama 289
  • References 371
  • Index 393
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