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150 Reviews Nadia C. Seremetakis, editor, Ritual, Power, and the Body: Historical Perspectives on the Representation of Greek Women. New York: Pella. 1993. Pp. 206. $12.00. The papers and poems comprising this volume were originally presented at a conference entitled "Greek and Greek American Women in Voice and Text" designed to initiate a dialogue between those studying ancient and modern Greece and the diaspora community. Like most publications of conference proceedings, this collection suffers from some discontinuity; nonetheless, there are several common themes linking these essays and poetry, and the organization of the volume enhances these connections. Moreover, most of the contributions , taken individually, are exemplary pieces of scholarship. Seremetakis's introductory essay offers an instructive commentary on the "anthropologies" of ancient and modern Greece. She criticizes both for their ahistorical biases and their failure to create a meaningful dialogue on common themes, in particular those relating to gender. The conference from which these papers come was organized to address such issues and this volume is an important contribution to a burgeoning literature on the subject. Indeed, virtually all of the authors represented here have already published significant articles and books in which many of these issues are considered. In her own contribution, "Durations of Pain: The Antiphony of Death and Women's Power in Southern Greece," Seremetakis establishes the primacy of moirolói in Maniât culture: "Death rituals have not been just one life-cycle event among others (such as birth, initiation, or marriage) but the paramount public event of the culture and the primary resource for the production of aesthetic forms (music and poetry) or kin ideology and indigenous oral history. . . . For Maniats, the singing of moiroloi (lament) connotes 'crying one's fate (moira).'" She further establishes critical links between ancient and modern lamentation through an intelligent analysis of content and style as well as performance modes, illustrated with quotations from several laments. She combines analyses of the linguistic, performative, semiotic, metaphoric, kinesic, acoustic, aesthetic, social, political, stylistic, and narrative components of Inner Maniât mourning and makes a good case for connections between the past and the present without resorting to simplistic models of continuity. Instead, she suggests a kind of psycho-ecological explanation based on similar circumstances that give rise to similar modes. Although she accomplishes this analytically, she argues that the "conceptual vocabulary" of performance cannot be separated from that of emotion. She is particularly good on the alternating role of the korifia, the "soloist" or chief mourner, and the moiroloyistres, mourners who act as the chorus. These performances "vividly dramatize the discourse between self and society." This essay's outstanding contribution is its elaboration of ideas introduced in Seremetakis's well-received book, TL· Last Word, especially those concerning panos (pain). An excellent précis of the physiological and psychological components of pónos is offered—one that introduces a new approach to the analysis of pain in that it reveals the ultimately subversive nature of die klárruv. "I believe that the use of pain by tL· subject in order to challenge and manipulate institutions points to the possibility of sociopolitical resistance" (author's italics). "Maternity and Mortality in Homeric Poetry" by Sheila Murnaghan is a bit Reviews 151 too long and some of the footnotes are excessive, but it is a fine piece of scholarship in which the symbolic and other links between maternity and death are explored in their Homeric context. In a well-documented argument, she maintains that women, empowered by their exclusive ability to give birth, are damned in Greek epic poetry to bear the responsibility for human mortality, and since the Homeric epics are concerned with heroes, it is their mothers upon whom this burden falls. It is as if the nurturing breast milk were actually a mortal poison sucked in by the innocent babe. Murnaghan confronts this cruel paradox and argues persuasively for this ingenious connection. The case she makes is convincing—an important contribution to our understanding of the male construct of the female in ancient Greek society. Page duBois's piece, "Sewing the Bodies: Metaphors of the Female Body in Ancient Greece," offers a stark contrast to Murnaghan's and is somewhat disappointing...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 150-152
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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