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Citizen Bacchae

Citizen Bacchae: Women’s Ritual Practice in Ancient Greece

Barbara Goff
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 413
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  • Book Info
    Citizen Bacchae
    Book Description:

    What activities did the women of ancient Greece perform in the sphere of ritual, and what were the meanings of such activities for them and their culture? By offering answers to these questions, this study aims to recover and reconstruct an important dimension of the lived experience of ancient Greek women. A comprehensive and sophisticated investigation of the ritual roles of women in ancient Greece, it draws on a wide range of evidence from across the Greek world, including literary and historical texts, inscriptions, and vase-paintings, to assemble a portrait of women as religious and cultural agents, despite the ideals of seclusion within the home and exclusion from public arenas that we know restricted their lives. As she builds a picture of the extent and diversity of women’s ritual activity, Barbara Goff shows that they were entrusted with some of the most important processes by which the community guaranteed its welfare. She examines the ways in which women’s ritual activity addressed issues of sexuality and civic participation, showing that ritual could offer women genuinely alternative roles and identities even while it worked to produce wives and mothers who functioned well in this male-dominated society. Moving to more speculative analysis, she discusses the possibility of a women’s subculture focused on ritual and investigates the significance of ritual in women’s poetry and vase-paintings that depict women. She also includes a substantial exploration of the representation of women as ritual agents in fifth-century Athenian drama.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93058-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    What activities did the women of ancient Greece perform in the sphere of ritual, and what were the meanings of such activities for them and for their culture as a whole? By offering answers to these questions, this book attempts to recover and reconstruct an important dimension of the lived experience of ancient Greek women. Classical scholars have only recently begun sustained investigation of women’s ritual practices, but the topic is of increasing interest for the study of women in various disciplines. This book is therefore designed to be of use not only to classical scholars but also to students...

  7. ONE Working Toward a Material Presence
    (pp. 25-76)

    Most women in most cultures have been discouraged from performing in the arenas of endeavor valued by their societies, and many have been either invited or compelled to confine themselves to domesticity. The women of ancient Greece were no exception; secluded, excluded, largely illiterate, they were never supposed to take a place in history. So what can it mean to invoke the figure of their “material presence”?

    There are at least two answers, general and specific, to this question. It is a tenet of women’s history that women are in fact present within human history and exert a force upon...

  8. TWO Ritual Management of Desire: The Reproduction of Sexuality
    (pp. 77-159)

    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...

  9. THREE In and Out of the City: Imaginary Citizens
    (pp. 160-226)

    Although the models of ritual action elaborated in the first and second chapters of this study subtend an obvious tension, I shall not attempt to resolve it here but rather re-stage it, on different terrain. Emphasizing a model of female presence, agency, and autonomy as exercised in the ritual sphere, I have also stressed that sizable tracts of that ritual elaborate versions of female identity that can only operate at the expense of those women themselves. To understand the ritual sphere comprehensively seems to require that we elaborate a dialectical model, in which both possibilities are seen to be simultaneously...

  10. FOUR Representing Women: Ritual as a Cultural Resource
    (pp. 227-288)

    Our concern in this study has been first to establish the material dimensions of women’s ritual work, and subsequently to relate that work to Greek discourses of gender identity and of civic participation. We have often found it useful to construct dialectical models in order to understand how women might negotiate the constraints of patriarchal culture by means of their ritual practice. A possible objection to the analyses developed in the previous two chapters, however, is that men and male-dominated practices occupy the center, so that the focus is less on women’s historical agency and more on the construction of...

  11. FIVE Women Represented: Ritual in Drama
    (pp. 289-370)

    Thus far we have examined women’s ritual practice in ancient Greece from a variety of perspectives, exploring its connections to discourses of work, sexuality, and civic identity, and its possible role in a women’s subculture. Throughout, numerous different kinds of testimony have been marshaled, and attempts have been made to circumvent the fact that our evidence is almost entirely generated by men, rather than by the women who were both the subjects and the objects of the ritual process. This chapter, then, marks a departure as well as providing a conclusion, for it concentrates on a single, well-deWned body of...

    (pp. 371-392)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 393-400)