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Lessons for a Hellenist from Amy Richlin's "Arguments with Silence"

Nancy Rabinowitz

Hamilton College

This paper focuses on the ways in which Richlin’s work has been influential far beyond Roman studies – for instance on the panelist’s own work on Greek tragedy. A fearless deployment of contemporary approaches marks Richlin’s work, making it relevant to others working on subjects far from her own. In her introduction to Arguments with Silence she summarizes the debate about incorporating theoretical approaches to work in Classics, and demonstrates the positive effects of using modern theory. For those working on canonical texts she presents the challenge of thinking anew about voices submerged beneath the ideology – broadening the search for evidence to include, for example, in the case of drama and oral poetry, how ancient audiences were constituted. In Chapter 5 of Arguments with Silence (“Reading Ovid’s Rapes,” first published in 1992) Richlin engages the hermeneutic potential of applying theoretical work on viewing and the gaze. In her concluding chapter Richlin addresses the dilemma feminists face when writing about women in the past: how are we to determine when there is continuity or discontinuity with the present? For those like Richlin who are writing about difficult subjects such as rape or slavery in antiquity the challenge is immense. Although she emphasizes the longue durée, Richlin refuses to be defeatist, and through her activism and ceaseless mentoring of graduate students and junior colleagues she goes beyond the printed page to educate, stimulate and provoke us to continue the search for positive change.

Session/Panel Title

Feminist Scholarship in the Classics: Amy Richlin's Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women (2014), (Workshop)

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