Imagining a sensually self-assertive singing bride—while reading the songs of Sappho
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2021.01.29. "Imagining a sensually self-assertive singing bride—while reading the songs of Sappho." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractThis brief essay considers a situation where girls and women are having an all-night party in celebration of a bride who is getting married tomorrow, let us imagine. In previous essays, I have analyzed references, in a wide variety of ancient Greek texts, to such all-night partying, and I tried not to lose track, in these essays, of the facts of life. I am fully aware that such merriment, to be enjoyed by girls and women, can lead to suspicions of a kind of sexuality that may be deemed to be improper by, say, judgmental elders. But what if we consider the self-expression of the bride herself on the occasion of an all-night party where she celebrates, with other girls and with older women—including, presumably, not only her own female friends and relatives but also her future female in-laws—the upcoming “happy” event of her wedding? It would be wrong-headed, I think, to assume that only ‘courtesans’, say, as suggested by the ancient Greek word hetairai, could find it possible to express their own sense of sexuality—or, we could call it sensuality—at all-night parties. I argue that a bride, through such media as we see surviving in Sappho’s songs, for example, could be imagined as a diva who sings her own sexuality—not just singing about it but even singing it—on the occasion of her very own “all-girl” wedding party lasting all night long. The songs of Sappho reflect here and there, as I have argued in previous essays, such self-expressions of sexuality, sensuality. And there are further reflections, as I have also argued, both in later pieces of verbal art that are reminiscent of Sappho and even in later pieces of visual art, as in pictures painted by the so-called Meidias Painter in the classical era of Athens. A case in point is the female beauty Pannychis, whose very name personifies such all-night partying and whom the Meidias Painter pictures in the act of beating out on her tambourine the rhythm of her song, aiming her sensual beat at an ecstatically dancing cupid or Eros. Only such diminutive male Erotes, as also pretty-boys like Adonis or Phaon, are admitted to such a mythologized “all-girl all-nighter.” And another case in point is a modern parallel, shown here in two consecutive freeze-frames extracted from a film about a bride who takes charge of her own singing at her own wedding party. Singing her song, she inspires her girl-friends or would-be girl-friends to “beat the drums with full vigor and sing with me.”
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