Rites of Passage in Ancient Greece: Literature, Religion, Society
The twelve essays in this volume of Bucknell Review treat the topic of rites of passage in ancient Greece, focusing largely on Athenian tragedy, but also Plato, the Greek novel, the festival of Anthesteria, and other topics. Highlights include essays on Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; treatments of male and female initiatory figures; theoretical work; a study employing textual and iconographic evidence; and a consideration of rites-of-passage themes in the Greek novel. Following a volume introduction by Mark W. Padilla, the contents are divided into five parts. In the first, "Male Rites of Passage in Greek Tragedy, " Dora Pozzi focuses on the figure of Hyllus in Sophocles' Women of Trachis, a character who has yet to receive sufficient attention given his straddling of two halves of the play. Robin Mitchell-Boyask's study of Euripides' Hippolytus treats the play's incorporation of inverted ephebic material. Charles Segal's essay also treats a Euridipean play, the Ion, a play whose themes of generational passage are articulated in a self-conscious discourse of myth. While all the essays hitherto pay attention to the civic context, Barbara Goff's treatment of Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris features this topic from a darker vantage point, in the context of the violent etiology of Athenian initiatory rites. Part two discusses rites-of-passage issues as centered on tragic heroines. Phyllis Katz provides a striking analysis of how the figure of Io in Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound displays cultural views of the biological and emotional state of the parthenos. William Tyrrell uncovers an "unnoticed rite of passage" in Sophocles' Antigone related to the social unease stemming from the institution of the state funeral in med-fifth century B.C. Athens. Bella Zweig brings Euripides' Helen into a social-political focus by suggesting that the play utilizes the content and legacy of the Spartan cult of Helen. Part three features an essay by Jan Bremmer in a study of transvestitism in Euripides' Bacchae as dependent upon the cults of Dionysus. Greta Ham looks at a cult of Dionysus, the initiatory "Choes day" of the Athenian Anthesteria, a ceremony for young boys. Ken Dowden in part four treats the Greek novel's inheritance of the tradition of rites of passage by considering how the genre further universalized this material in ways that invite psychological and archetypal readings. In part five, David Leitao challenges Vidal-Naquet's paradigm of the luminal identity of the "anti-citizen ephebe," arguing that it is the stages of separation and incorporation that define the crucial steps in initiatory accounts. Claude Calame provides a theoretical discussion of the ideological bias in the anthropological classification of initiatory experience, a confusion of ethnological observation and normative principle already developed in Plato's Laws.
Contributors: Dora C. Pozzi, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Charles Segal, Barbara Goff, Phyllis B. Katz, Wm. Blake Tyrrell, Bella Zweig, Jan N. Bremmer, Greta L. Ham, Ken Dowden, David D. Leotao, and Claude Calame.
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