Ancient Medieval Literature

Abusive Mouths in Classical Athens by Nancy Worman

By Nancy Worman

This research of the language of insult charts abuse in classical Athenian literature that centres at the mouth and its appetites, in particular conversing, consuming, consuming, and sexual actions. Attic comedy, Platonic discussion, and fourth-century oratory usually install insulting depictions of the mouth and its excesses that allows you to deride expert audio system as sophists, demagogues, and girls. even supposing the styles of images explored are very favourite in historic invective and later western literary traditions, this can be the 1st e-book to debate this phenomenon in classical literature. It responds to a becoming curiosity in either abusive speech genres and the illustration of the physique, illuminating an iambic discourse that isolates the intemperate mouth as a visual logo of behaviours ridiculed within the democratic arenas of classical Athens.

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69). Odysseus responds in kind, calling her a dog (kÅon; cf. 338–39). This conflict with a lascivious and mocking servant woman should be recognized as importantly parallel to the confrontations of the iambic poet with Iambe or other scornful female figures. 45 This would indicate that Odysseus, as a proto-iambic figure, undergoes a particular kind of test with Melantho, as opposed to his other abusers: that of the hungry poet who contends with women to shore up his power as a curser of men. His words, thus sanctioned, would carry a special, even divine, force – as indeed they often seem to in the denouement of the Odyssey.

Clearly, when Priam wishes that Achilles might become carrion and when Hecuba wishes that she might eat Achilles’ liver, they are also participating in doggish, cursing language. 34 These speeches, I submit, contribute a set of harsh associations that parallel those employed in flyting and help to shape later invective. 35 The appetitive guest In the Odyssey eating is a general cause for concern, in that it is frequently hard to come by and ultimately drives Odysseus to sing for his supper in a number of dining scenes.

As comedy became less political in focus and less crude in diction, orators adopted its vocabulary to denigrate opponents, while rhetorical theorists such as Plato reframed its application as mock abuse of Socrates, the chief critic of civic leaders and their teachers. Plato’s adoption of the language of insult from dramatic genres for use in prose dialogues signals the performative nature of these dialogues, as well as their participation in the characterological schemes that shape iambic discourse.

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