Writing, Women's Silent Speech

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


At the beginning of the Hellenistic era, a few poets bequeathed to literary epigram a set of questions that was to occupy the genre for the next hundred years; on their foundation would be built masterpieces of misdirection by Callimachus, Theocritus, Asclepiades, Posidippus, and others.1 These foundational poets were particularly concerned with the ability of writing to construct reality, and with whether an artistically constructed object can be said to be, or only to represent, its model. They explored these ideas by making enigmas out of the formerly conventional questions of inscribed epigram: “Who is talking?” “Who is being addressed?” “What is the object to which they point?”2 Two things about this foundational moment are clear. First, it is significant that epigram, unlike other Greek genres, is inherently literate, as only a literate genre can allow these questions to be asked non-trivially. And second, the early, foundational epigrams that were most influential in promoting these themes are ascribed to women: to Nossis, Anyte, Moero, and especially Erinna. What drew female authors to explore the characteristics of literacy?3 In this chapter we will see that, by the mid-4th century BCE, the peculiarities of writing were already beginning to be gendered, and that the epigrams of Erinna played a key role in adjusting the relationship between the writer, the written, and woman.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBrill Studies in Greek and Roman Epigraphy
EditorsAndrej Petrovic, Ivana Petrovic, Edmund Thomas
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameBrill Studies in Greek and Roman Epigraphy
ISSN (Print)1876-2557

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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