Women in Antiquity: CLAS 330/HUM 330/WS 330 (3 units)
Presession, Summer 1995: Monday, May 15 - Saturday, June 3
9:00 -11:50 AM MTWTHF ML 312
Instructor: Marilyn B. Skinner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lecture 3: Homeric Women
Pomeroy, chapter 2
- Gods and goddesses: cosmic myth, organization of world in
- Heroic legends: paradigms of good or bad human behavior,
e.g., Helen, Clytemnestra, Penelope
Homer as a Historical Source
- Oral poetry and its audience: material shaped by collective
poetic activity and audience would have been immediately
responsive to implications of composition
- Teaching function of poems: present, in parable form,
aspects of normative behavior
- Were there women in Homer's audience? (Odyssey 11). Female
listener expected to identify with Arete or Penelope and to
regard herself as chaste, intelligent, and supportive.
Patterns of Gender Relations in Homer
- Marriage as women's destined end, for biological as well as
social reasons: even Penelope assumes it's her duty to remarry
if still fertile
- Oikos--estate of family, comprising both land and valuables, as well
as household members
- husband's role: provider and protector
- wife's role: conserve that within the household
- child's role: continuation of paternal line
- Characteristics of Homeric marriage
- - separate spheres (warfare vs. weaving)
- - seclusion of women
- - kyrios (protector)
- - arranged monogamous marriages
- - hedna (gifts): competition for bride, proof of support
- - honor vs. shame
- Patrilocal vs. matrilocal marriage: "marrying-in man" takes
kingdome as the husband of the king's daughter. Motif of
prenuptial ordeal taking the place of competition with gifts.
- Gender anomalies: matriarchy (distinguish from matriliny)?
The Situation of Penelope
- "Stand-in Wife": a wife who assumes her husband's functions in
his absence, and, because of her husband's
position, is invested with a kind of
- Who is Penelope's kyrios?
- Husband has been missing ten years--but she, as his stand- in
wife, has power to recognize him or declare him dead
- Cannot return to father's protection without abandoning
Telemachus and Odysseus' estate, which she must preserve
- Anomalous situation of Telemachus--must remain a child
to be safe
- Power vacuum leaves suitors free to consume estate
- Questions concerning Penelope's autonomy:
- - What are the limits of her authority over the household?
- - Can she choose to remarry, and whom to remarry?
- - Why does she propose the contest of the bow?
- - Why does she not acknowledge Odysseus immediately?
- Two views of her situation:
- Murnaghan: "desperate and trapped"
- Winkler: "clever and successful - the poet tricks us
into underestimating her"
- Situation may be set up as a test case to allow for debate--
ambiguity of Penelope's position deliberately manufactured