The Transvestite Achilles: Gender and Genre in Statius' Achilleid

The Transvestite Achilles: Gender and Genre in Statius' Achilleid

P. J. Heslin

Language: English

Pages: 372

ISBN: 0521117755

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

As we follow Achilles' metamorphosis from wild boy to demure girl to lover to hero, Statius brilliantly illustrates a series of contrasting codes of behavior: male and female, epic and elegiac. This first full-length study of the poem addresses not only the narrative itself, but also sets the myth of Achilles on Scyros within a broad interpretive framework. The exploration ranges from the reception of the Achilleid in Baroque opera to the anthropological parallels that have emerged to explain Achilles' transvestism.

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describes is very political, male-dominated, and lacking in mythical, supernatural features. War has begun, but it has yet to involve all of its players. The events of the plot are driven by alliances: Paris’ violation of the laws of hospitality has caused a war, and the king of Scyros is torn between two allegiances. Lycomedes’ dilemma is political: he has to balance his loyalty to his friend and ally Peleus with his broader loyalty to the Greeks. In a general sense, this political landscape

always an essential feature of Claudian’s project. Claudian abandoned his composition not once but twice, and even tells the reader so, adding a resumptive preface before the second book. This indicates that the composition took place in two stages, with a prolonged interval in between; various biographical explanations of this lacuna have been proposed.31 Yet if we look at the end of the first book, an aesthetic rather than a biographical explanation may be preferable. The first book of the De

e 121 fact, Alessandro Barchiesi has suggested a particular Ovidian connection for Statius’ use of the phrase impar genus.35 Ovid argues in one of the Amores that his servitium amoris at the hands of the beautiful Corinna is an example of the rule that great things may be joined to lesser. He cites a number of examples of goddesses who married lesser beings, including Thetis (Ov. Am. 2.17.17f ). He also mentions Venus’ marriage to the unlovely and limping Vulcan; the mention of limping brings

Rhea, from the attentions of his father Cronus not, of course, by its silence, 67 On the poetic mobility of Delos, see Bing (1988: 91–143) and Barchiesi (1994). wom a n ho od, rhe toric, a n d p er f or m a n c e 137 but by making a tremendously loud noise. The Curetes, and sometimes Corybantes, attendants of Rhea, concealed the presence of the baby by clashing their weapons and armor in order to drown out his cries.68 In each of her speeches in the Achilleid, Thetis uses inappropriate

thyrsus, Deidamia’s argument for the equivalence between the two gains in vividness and force. At the very moment that Deidamia makes a claim that sounds an egalitarian, one might say even protofeminist, note, she is betrayed by her ineluctable femininity; her discourse is signed by the poet as “female” even at the moment it contests the essentiality of such labels. The equation that she makes between military standards and maenadic thyrsi, clever though it is, depends ultimately upon a

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