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Title: Fictions of female voices in Hellenistic poetry
Author: Pace, Valeria
ISNI:       0000 0004 7962 0316
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis examines female voices in Hellenistic Poetry. It argues that fictions of female voices in Greek literature produced in this period assume unprecedented importance. Fictions of female voices of course appear within these poems in the form of character voices. They also, however, structure crucial elements of the plot and style of these poems. It is the contention of this thesis that Hellenistic poems characteristically straddle tradition and innovation in the presentation of these fictions. I define the traditional fictions of female voices in Part 1 of my thesis through an analysis of Archaic Poetry. Part 2 then looks at the complex ways in which Hellenistic poetry engages with this tradition, and how it brings about innovation. Part I of the thesis is made up of two chapters. Chapter 1 deals with Homeric epic poetry, a type of song context that was undoubtedly gendered male. The female voice in these poems, it is argued, represents a foil to the voice of the hero. Whereas the language of heroes gives a performance of their strength, women act out their weakness in direct speeches. Chapter 2 concentrates on Archaic choral songs sung by choruses of young women: partheneia and wedding songs, namely songs in praise of women. These songs, it is argued, strive to act out the beauty of the female body. Visual imagery and deixis of various forms combine in concentrating the audience's gaze onto the spectacle of beautiful dancing bodies in performance. Part II of the thesis studies how Hellenistic poems adopt and rework these traditional modes of fashioning the female voice. Chapter 3 focuses on the Argonautica of Apollonius. The poem responds pointedly to the Homeric codification of the female voice; this is detectable at the level of narrative voice and in several junctures of the poem. The chapter shows that women in the Argonautica make claims to power in a way that is unthinkable in Homer and thereby blur the stark gendered lines that traditionally demarcate the difference between male and female language in epic. Chapter 4 looks at Ps.Theocritus Idyll 27 and Moschus' Europa-poems featuring parthenoi on the cusp of their gamos. These poems, in addition to responding to traditional fictions of the female voice, engage with previous Hellenistic fictions. The traditional fiction of the female choral voice structures the plot of both poems-wedding song in the case of Ps.Theocritus 27, and partheneia in the case of Moschus' Europa. Striking innovation is displayed in the presentation of fictions of female voices of both poems. Idyll 27 requires us to imagine its παρθένος protagonist as a bucolic singer to-be, thus inventing, largely thanks to Theocritean intertexts, the female herder-singer-a figure that does not exist in genuine Theocritean bucolics. Similarly, the Europa constructs epic that is gendered female by making a choral plot the central focus of epic action. Indeed, the plan of Aphrodite is central to the denouement of the story, and sexual attractiveness and desirability enable Europa to wield power. A remodelling of voices and experiences of Homeric Nausicaa and Apollonian Medea structure the creation of the character of Europa.
Supervisor: Hunter, Richard Sponsor: Jebb Studentship ; Gonville Studentship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Female Voices ; Hellenistic poetry ; Homer ; Apollonius Rhodius ; Theocritus ; Moschus ; women in literature ; bucolic poetry ; Alcman ; epic poetry ; choral poetry