Perpetua

Dec. 12th, 2015 09:55 pm
ricardienne: (christine)
Tired and sick and I STILL haven't finished my paper. Or any of the other things. Yesterday was the department research-presentation day, at which I learned that one of the archaeologists whom I definitely thought was named Miranda is actually named Marenne. My office-mate gave a talk in Dutch about his new theories about the development of the Homeric dialect, which I mostly followed, and the anglo-american Byzantinist whose Christmas Party I am currently not at do to feeling unwell gave a pretty good talk as well. The other talk in Dutch was on the Diary of Perpetua, which is part of an early Latin martyrdom account that claims to be the transcription of the account written by the martyr Perpetua herself of her last days in prison and the visions she had there. So, if it should be authentic, it would be pretty much the only extended (~ 5 pages) ancient-ish prose written by a woman. Of course, many people don't think it's authentic, and this talk, which was given by a male professor, presented some "textual arguments" for why it probably wasn't written by Perpetua, but was written by a man based on her oral testimony.
Women writers in antiquity? )
ricardienne: (heiro)
From the commentary of W.B. Stanford on the Odyssey, published 1948.

On 19.500-502 (Odysseus has just been recognized by Eurycleia, he's threatened that if she reveals what she knows, he will not spare her "though you are my nurse, when I kill all the other slave-women in my house." She responds with an assurance that she will be as silent "as barren stone or iron... but I'll tell you about the household women, which did you dishonor and which are innocent." Odysseus responds: "Granny, why are you to tell me about them? It isn't your place. For you can be sure that I will investigate it and learn about each one."
Stanford:
O. rather curtly cuts short Eurycleia's tale-bearing about her fellow-servants. He prefers to see to this sort of thing himself
On 22.195-199 (Eumaeus and Philoetius tie up the treacherous Melanthius during the slaughter of the suitors and stick him in a store room). Stanford:
no one is so hard on a faithful servant as an unfaithful servant.
on 22.474 (execution of Melanthius -- his nose, ears, and genitals are cut off and fed to the dogs, then he is dismembered. Stanford finds this much more disturbing than the execution of the maidservants, which he annotates in detail. Although he does note that the last line of that section ("their feet writhed a little while, but not for long") contributes to "the horror of their agony.")) But about Melanthius:
ἦγον sc. from the θάλαμος : the subject is presumably the swineherd, the cowherd, and perhaps -- one hopes not -- Telemachus. O. himself was inside the house and had no part in the following barbarities, which are best excused as the revenge of servants on a traitorous servant. Even Antinous when he threatened similar indignities on Irus, did not propose to inflict them himself.
Of course, Telemachus is the one who decrees that they are going give the maidservants the unclean death of hanging rather than the execution by the sword that Odysseus had ordered (nb. the first thing he does is to ask Eurycleia which ones are guilty* and which are innocent.)

It's maybe also interesting that Stanford's introduction includes under CHARACTERS people like Anticleia (Odysseus's mother) and Ajax, and mentions that the Suitors and Odysseus' Companions are individuated characters, but doesn't even signal the existence of Eurycleia and Eumaeus, two of the main characters of the last third of the poem. The introductory essay to the second half of the Odyssey has a bit more:
Instead of queer folk rapidly sketched we are now shown ordinary folk searchingly portrayed...Who would not rather face the anger of Aeolus and the blandishments of Circe, and even the terrors of the Cyclops and Scylla, than suffer, in constant danger of detection and death, the taunts and missiles of insolent princelings and the derision of his own disloyal servants? Truly it needed a heart and face as hard as steel and horn (19.211) for a husband after nearly twenty years' separation from his wife to witness her deep sorrow, for a father to watch the humiliations of his only son, for a kingly householder, disguised as a beggar, to see the anarchy, extravagance, insolence, and immorality that prevailed in his own palace, without betraying himself prematurely.


*that is, "guilty." Melantho is about on same snide-and-mean level as O'Brian from Downton Abbey, though Melantho doesn't, as I recall, actually do anything particularly wicked (contra, O'Brian). Otherwise, what the maidservants are guilty of is sleeping with the suitors. (Let's just say that I have a hard time reading this part of the Odyssey straight and believing that sexual relationships between insolent and violent aristocratic young men and slave-girls were consensual seduction.)
ricardienne: (Default)
Daniel Mendelsohn just wrote an essay on Mad Men for the New York Review of Books.

I confess I haven't seen the show, though I'm reasonably aware of what it is and how and why it's such a big deal. Anyway, Mendelsohn isn't impressed:the worst offense of a story set in the past: simultaneously contemptuous and pandering )

Anyway, the point is that Dale Peck was not impressed at all by Mendelsohn's critique of this, or of anything. But, obviously, it's not even Daniel Mendelsohn as much as Mendelsohn's icky out-there classics background:

Daniel Mendelsohn—a Princeton-educated classicist who should never be allowed to write about anything more recent than, say, Suetonius. Frankly, I’m not sure he should be allowed to write about the classics either, but I don’t know enough Latin and Greek to say if he’s as wrong about them as he is about modern stuff....all the standards of symmetry and taste that classicists are taught to hold dear, and that Mendelsohn assiduously, with a sharp eye but a tin ear, applies to everything he reviews. If it was good enough for Aristotle, it must be good enough for us, right?


As far as I can tell, Peck really just objects to Daniel Mendelsohn making pronouncements about anything -- so if he is going to criticize Mad Men for not providing any meaningful story or meaningful experience to the viewer, Peck is damn well going to defend the show, even if just as mindless entertainment!

Weirdly, though, Peck's issue is that Mendelsohn is criticizing Mad Men for presenting too straight a story, for not being self-reflective and post-modern enough. I mean, says Peck, it's so hard not to be racist and sexist: sometimes we just want to "bask in the pleasures" of the gloriously decadent past: taking others' needs into consideration...is exhausting )

I really do think it takes a white man to claim that we all fantasize about being in a "fixed and secure" place in a hierarchical society, "even if it lands [us] on the bottom." I realize that as a classicist, I'm not qualified to comment on anything later than Suetonius (thank heavens Tacitus just slips in by a few years!) but it's also a bizarre way to look at modern America: "here we are, repressing all of our natural urges and treating each other like persons with dignity all for our own collective good; heavens isn't it nice to relax into some nice warm fuzzy fantasy where the gender and economic roles are fixed and the women wear girdles and no one worries if you have a few drinks too many, grope your secretary and then drive home." I mean, yes, we do put ourselves under social pressures to behave in certain ways and to avoid certain socially unacceptable behaviors. I have a hard time believing that we police ourselves more than people policed themselves in the 1960's or in any era, really. Different pressures, maybe but not fewer.
ricardienne: (Default)
Today's recipe from the NY Times food section: "Decadent Quiche"; today's food headline from the Arizona Republic (ie dumb local paper): "5 Meals Under 500 Calories."

(disclosure: I don't particularly like the faux-liberalism of the NY Times, though I find their "lifestyle" sections hilarious; I really don't like the down-home Americana of the AZ Rep, but though I find their periodic attempts to ape the high style of, well, high style, pretty hilarious, too, there's something a little bit sad about it all.)

I'm sure there's something to be said about the privilege of being able to eat whatever you want when you decide you want it because you generally can afford fresh vegetables and a balanced diet and the time to prepare them nicely and have access to gyms and exercise classes, in contrast to the needing to control and plan for everything that you eat. Something about food as a source of pleasure and enjoyment vs. food as a fraught source of anxiety that is out to get you. Something about how if obesity and health problems that are popularly related to food consumption are the Evil That Afflicts The Less Fortunate Classes in this country (as we are often told they are), there's a telling difference between the class that says "look how close I can come to those supposedly "dangerous" behaviors (because I'm not really under threat from them)" and the class that is supposed to be desperately fighting off the looming threat of -- oh noes -- being fat.

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