About Euripides the anthropologist, and how he reads the troubled thoughts of female initiands
MetadataShow full item record
CitationNagy, Gregory. 2021.02.20. "About Euripides the anthropologist, and how he reads the troubled thoughts of female initiands." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractI have long admired what I would call the anthropological insights of Euripides into aetiologies, that is, into myths referring directly to rituals that frame these myths. Of course the very idea of linking anthropology with the poetry of Euripides is quite inaccurate in its anachronism, but the actual insights of this poet into the interweavings of myth and ritual—as anthropologists today tend to use these two terms—are I think quite accurate. A case in point, as I argued in “Hour 20” of the book The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (Nagy 2013, second edition 2020; hereafter abbreviated H24H), is the myth about Hippolytus and Phaedra as transmitted in the ancient Greek city-state of Troizen, where the local population worshipped these two mythological figures as cult heroes linked with a ritual of female initiation. This localized ritual in Troizen was aetiologized in a localized myth telling about the unrequited love of Phaedra for Hippolytus, and Euripides, in a drama named after Hippolytus, actually poeticized this aetiology, as I argued in the book I cited (H24H 20§39 = pp. 481–482 of the second edition). What I now add to that argument is that this aetiology is linked by Euripides to the way he reads the actual feelings of female initiands as they relate in ritual to the prototypical feelings of Phaedra herself in myth. In the poetics of Euripides, the “wandering mind” of the lovesick Phaedra in myth is linked to personal anxieties experienced by girls who are about to be initiated into womanhood. Their troubled thoughts, as we will see, are pictured as a musical continuation of an archetypal woman’s own way of thinking about the sorrows of love
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37367192
- CHS Classical Inquiries