The Pregnant Male as Myth and Metaphor in Classical Greek Literature

The Pregnant Male as Myth and Metaphor in Classical Greek Literature

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This book traces the image of the pregnant male in Greek literature as it evolved over the course of the classical period. The image - as deployed in myth and in metaphor - originated as a representation of paternity and, by extension, 'authorship' of ideas, works of art, legislation, and the like. Only later, with its reception in philosophy in the early fourth century, did it also become a way to figure and negotiate the boundary between the sexes. The book considers a number of important moments in the evolution of the image: the masculinist embryological theory of Anaxagoras of Clazomenae and other fifth century pre-Socratics; literary representations of the birth of Dionysus; the origin and functions of pregnancy as a metaphor in tragedy, comedy and works of some Sophists; and finally the redeployment of some of these myths and metaphors in Aristophanes' Assemblywomen and in Plato's Symposium and Theaetetus.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 328 pages
  • 162 x 230 x 34mm | 580.6g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New.
  • 1107017289
  • 9781107017283

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Review quote

'This important and thought-provoking book provides a meticulously documented history of the metaphor of male pregnancy in Athens during the classical period ... Leitao successfully demonstrates that the conception of intellectual production as a male reproductive act did not spring from Plato's head fully formed. Rather, it is the culmination of a long history of Greek thinkers' use of male pregnancy to think through intellectual problems. With its detailed account of the genealogy and evolution of the pregnant male metaphor, this book fills an important gap in the study of intellectual history ... [it] tracks the metaphor's development in well-known authors, such as Aristophanes, Herodotus, Plato, and the tragedians, but also in less frequently discussed works ... makes a valuable contribution to scholarly discussions of gender and reproduction by introducing less frequently discussed texts into the conversation ...' Bryn Mawr Classical Review '[A] brilliantly executed volume ... With a secure command of the primary sources and all relevant scholarly commentary, Leitao convincingly elaborates his analytical program. Adducing an impressive array of evidence [the author] charts the evolutionary development (during the period 470-350 BCE) of this potent image (with its multiple variations, interpretations, and purposes of employment over a period of time). A resonant intellectual and literary conceit, the notion of the pregnant male, at its core, asserted an elemental connection of paternal pregnancy/parturition to the modalities of 'authorship (i.e., 'giving birth') and creativity with respect to ideas, thought, epistemology, art, laws, and institutions. Leitao's introduction is particularly useful for its linear outline of his purpose, program, and methodology; his bibliography and appendixes attest to the breadth and integrity of his scholarship. Summing up: highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.' J. S. Louzonis, Choice

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About David D. Leitao

David D. Leitao is Professor of Classics at San Francisco State University and Chair of the Departments of Classics and Comparative and World Literature. He has published articles in Classical Antiquity, Mnemosyne and Materiali e Discussioni, as well as in numerous edited volumes.

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