The wedding song in Greek literature and culture

Badnall, Toni Patricia (2009) The wedding song in Greek literature and culture. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.



This thesis examines the Greek wedding song and its function in literature and culture. The genre, hymenaios or epithalamium, has received little scholarly attention, particularly in English (cf. Muth, WS 1954; Tufte, Los Angeles 1970; Contiades-Tsitsoni, Stuttgart 1990, ZPE 1994; Swift, JHS 2006 & DPhil diss.). Yet an examination of the poetry of marriage, a crucial aspect in the study of the ancient world, contributes to our understanding of gender and social relations, as well as literature.

Using elements of genre theory, gender studies, anthropology and cultural history, I argue that the epithalamium was part of a ritual of transition; for both the bride and for the community.

The archaic epithalamium enacts this transition in lyric; tragic adaptations of the genre explore the consequences when this tradition is unsuccessfully performed. In contrast, the wedding songs of Attic comedy represent a 'happy ever after' ending for the communities of the protagonists, and portray these unions as a Sacred Marriage of man and goddess. The Helenistic epithalamium takes elements of these literary predecessors, and uses them to articulate a transition in marital relations, and literary politics, in the oeuvre of Theocritus. Philia relations in this era evolve to depict a more prominent mutuality between husband and wife, which also underpins the erotic writings of Plutarch. But more importantly, this author develops epithalamial topoi to present marriage as an 'initiation' for the bridal couple, which brings the thesis full-circle to the concept of transition while laying the foundation for one of the central concepts of Menander Rhetor's prescripts.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Mossman, J.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
ID Code:2089
Deposited By:June Walsh
Deposited On:29 Jun 2011 10:27
Last Modified:29 Jun 2011 10:27

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