Essays On Demeter

Essays On Demeter-56
One addition to Foley's interpretation might be suggested, that the Hymn also suggests an adjustment in the formation of heterosexual relations in marriage on the part of males whereby force is replaced by persuasion.Whatever exactly he does with the pomegranate seed, Hades tries to persuade Persephone of the advantages of their marriage when told that he must return her to her mother, and Zeus is compelled to resort to persuasion and the promise of timai in the final resolution. In Greek society, girls did not actually return to their mothers for significant periods of time after marriage but were separated from them.

One addition to Foley's interpretation might be suggested, that the Hymn also suggests an adjustment in the formation of heterosexual relations in marriage on the part of males whereby force is replaced by persuasion.

In contrast to many other treatments of the Hymn, Foley sees the foundation of the Eleusinian Mysteries at the end as integral to, and indeed prepared for by, the entire narrative structure.

In one way or another, this sense of the Mysteries' importance pervades the interpretation throughout, and is confirmed by the strong reading it generates.

The epic (and lyric) view of death as the end of significant life produces an anxiety for fame, and specifically immortality in song.

This compensation for death was available principally to aristocratic males.

Foley's reading of the poem from this perspective accounts not only for the major events (Persephone's rape from a paradisal setting of female unity, Demeter's experience of mortal women successfully functioning within patriarchal society at Eleusis, her attempt to compensate for Persephone's loss to the Underworld by immortalizing a male child, her anger and resistance, and the final accommodation), but also for the roles of other female figures, Hekate and Demeter's own mother Rheia.

Essays On Demeter

The latter's function as intermediary is especially significant because, as Chodorow emphasizes, intergenerational female relations are quite important in societies where female maturation is not especially problematical.And the book should be valuable in a correspondingly wide range of courses; it seems to me a model of how to present an ancient text attractively and interrogate it from the perspective of contemporary concerns. Next, short accounts are given of the Mysteries themselves and women's rites to Demeter and Persephone.These sections lay the groundwork for Foley's own lengthy "Interpretive Essay." Finally, five articles are reprinted to give a sample of earlier work on the Hymn and related issues: Mary Louise Lord on a story pattern common to the Hymn and the Homeric epics, Nancy Felson-Rubin and Harriet Deal on the relation between the Demophoon episode and the framing story of Demeter and Persephone, Jean Rudhardt's examination of the Hymn (here in English translation) against the background of the divine division of timai, Marilyn Arthur (Katz) on the structural unity of the poem, analyzed with a notable use of psychoanalytic theory, and Nancy Chodorow's "Family Structure and Feminine Personality." These papers were all published previously and need no comment here, except to say that they are well-chosen and together bring out different aspects of the Hymn's main concerns.The epic story pattern of wrath, withdrawal, and return disclosed by Mary Louise Lord also emphasizes the mingling of divine and human, as does the initiatory pattern that the Hymn's mythic narrative and the Mysteries themselves have in common.Finally, the oddities of the narrative -- the suppression of Attic / Eleusinian versions of the myth and the lack of motivation for key events -- allow these same thematic emphases. In this way, the Hymn can supplement for us the fragments of Sappho and other women poets. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, as Helene Foley emphasizes throughout this book, is unique among early Greek narrative poetry in concentrating on female experience in ancient Greek society and the ways in which that experience was symbolically expressed, and mitigated, in cult and ritual.But this disparity between the ideal and the real only reinforces Foley's suggestion that the myth and women's rituals to Demeter based on it served to "compensate women for marriage." The Eleusinian Mysteries, however, were a slightly different matter, and Foley goes on from her discussion of female experience in the Hymn to ask how the Mysteries, founded as a result of that experience according to the myth, could appeal so broadly: to men as well as women, to people of all classes and from all over Greece.One of the most interesting differences that Foley suggests between the Hymn and other early Greek poetry concerns contrasting attitudes to death.The Hymn thus emphasizes the creative potential of female wrath, and it significantly modifies the perspective of Hesiod's Theogony on the role of gender conflict in cosmology and the portrait of patriarchal order given in Homeric epic (although the outcome is still inscribed within that order).The Hymn therefore imports into the Panhellenic epic tradition a myth and a cult that were "potentially antagonistic" to it.


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