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Prisoner of History: Aspasia of Miletus and Her Biographical Tradition

Prisoner of History: Aspasia of Miletus and Her Biographical Tradition

Hardback

By (author) Madeleine Mary Henry

$94.00

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 147mm x 225mm x 19mm | 445g
  • Publication date: 20 July 1995
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0195087127
  • ISBN 13: 9780195087123
  • Illustrations note: halftones
  • Sales rank: 898,871

Product description

According to legend, Aspasia of Miletus was a courtesan, the teacher of Socrates, and the political adviser of her lover Pericles. Next to Sappho and Cleopatra, she is the best known woman of the ancient Mediterranean. Yet continued uncritical reception of her depiction in Attic comedy and naive acceptance of Plutarch's account of her in his Life of Pericles prevent us from understanding who she was and what her contributions to Greek thought may have been. Madeleine Henry combines traditional philological and historical methods of analysis with feminist critical perspectives, in order to trace the construction of Aspasia's biographical tradition from ancient times to the present. Through her analysis of both literary and political evidence, Henry determines the ways in which Aspasia has become an icon of the sexually attractive and politically influential female, how this construction has prevented her from taking her rightful place as a contributor to the philosophical enterprise, and how continued belief in this icon has helped sexualize all women's intellectual achievements. This is the first work to study Aspasia's biographical tradition from ancient Greece to the present day.

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Review quote

A richly entertaining book for those interested in how traditions develop. Religious Studies Review A fascinating book ... Madeleine Henry has suceeded in presenting us with an extremely substantial and well-documented book. Rachel J. Finnegan, Hermathena This work is to be commended for its thorough and scholarly analysis of the standard texts, and also for its more open approach to the less academic works. It should have a wide appeal, attracting readers with an interest in various disciplines, including classics, feminist studies and the history of biography. Rachel J. Finnegan, Hermathena

Back cover copy

According to legend, Aspasia of Miletus was a courtesan, the teacher of Socrates, and the political adviser of her lover Pericles. Next to Sappho and Cleopatra, she is the best known woman of the ancient Mediterranean. Yet continued uncritical reception of her depiction in Attic comedy and naive acceptance of Plutarch's account of her in his Life of Pericles prevent us from understanding who she was and what her contributions to Greek thought may have been. In the first study of its type, Madeleine Henry combines traditional philological and historical methods of analysis with feminist critical perspectives in order to trace the construction of Aspasia's biographical tradition from ancient times to the present. Through her analysis of both literary and historical evidence, Henry determines the ways in which Aspasia has become an icon of the sexually attractive and politically influential female, how this construction has prevented her from taking her rightful place as a contributor to the philosophical enterprise, and how continued belief in this icon has helped sexualize all women's intellectual achievements. An important corrective to the historical literature on Aspasia of Miletus, Prisoner of History will interest scholars in a wide range of disciplines, including classics, ancient history, philosophy, and women's studies.