Posted on September 30, by Scott Alexander [Content warning: Try to keep this off Reddit and other similar sorts of things.
We tend now to think of the Odyssey as the story of Odysseus and the adventures and scrapes he had Discursive essay topics football home after the Trojan War — while for decades Penelope loyally waited for him, fending off the suitors who were pressing for her hand. At which point young Telemachus intervenes: The actual words Telemachus uses are significant too.
In Homeric Greek it signals authoritative public speech not the kind of chatting, prattling or gossip that anyone — women included, or especially women — could do. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it. My aim here — and I acknowledge the irony of my being given the space to address the subject — is to take a long view, a very long view, on the culturally awkward relationship between the voice of women and the public sphere of speech-making, debate and comment: Poor Io is turned into a cow by Jupiter, so she cannot talk but only moo;  while the chatty nymph Echo is punished so that her voice is never hers, merely an instrument for repeating the words of others.
His descriptions Discursive essay topics football revealing. First, women are allowed to speak out as victims and as martyrs — usually to preface their own death.
Early Christian women were represented loudly upholding their faith as they went to the lions; and, in a well-known story from the early history of Rome, the virtuous Lucretia, raped by a brutal prince of the ruling monarchy, was given a speaking part solely to denounce the rapist and announce her own suicide or so Roman writers presented it: But even this rather bitter opportunity to speak could itself be removed.
One story in the Metamorphoses tells of the rape of the young princess Philomela. In order to prevent any Lucretia-style denunciation, the rapist quite simply cuts her tongue out. Occasionally women could legitimately rise up to speak — to defend their homes, their children, their husbands or the interests of other women.
So in the third of the three examples of female oratory discussed by that Roman anthologist, the woman — Hortensia by name — gets away with it because she is acting explicitly as the spokesperson for the women of Rome, after they have been subject to a special wealth tax to fund a dubious war effort.
Ancient women were obviously not likely to raise their voices in a political sphere in which they had no formal stake. Public speech was a — if not the — defining attribute of maleness. A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman.
We find repeated stress throughout ancient literature on the authority of the deep male voice. As one ancient scientific treatise explicitly put it, a low-pitched voice indicated manly courage, a high-pitched voice female cowardice.
Would not that seem terrible and harder to bear than any plague? What I want to underline here is that this is not the peculiar ideology of some distant culture. Distant in time it may be. But this is the tradition of gendered speaking — and the theorising of gendered speaking — of which we are still, directly or more often indirectly, the heirs.
There are all kinds of variant and competing influences on us, and our political system has happily overthrown many of the gendered certainties of antiquity. Yet it remains the fact that our own traditions of debate and public speaking, their conventions and rules, still lie very much in the shadow of the classical world.
The modern techniques of rhetoric and persuasion formulated in the Renaissance were drawn explicitly from ancient speeches and handbooks.
And gender is obviously an important part of that mix. Women who claim a public voice get treated as freakish androgynes, like Maesia who defended herself in the Forum. There is no script from her hand or that of her speech-writer, no eye-witness account, and the canonical version comes from the letter of an unreliable commentator, with his own axe to grind, written almost forty years later.
But for my purpose the probable fictionality of the speech makes it even better: Looking at modern traditions of oratory more generally, we also find that same single area of licence for women to talk publicly, in support of their own sectional interests, or to parade their victimhood.
The authorised version was written up a decade or so after Sojourner Truth said whatever she said — and that is when the now famous refrain, which she certainly did not say, was inserted, while at the same time her words as a whole were translated into a Southern drawl, to match the abolitionist message, even though she came from the North and had been brought up speaking Dutch.
Here, I suppose I should flag up — before someone else does — my own topic this evening. No one forced it on me.
I probably have to confess to being in the niche too. The truth is that even that area of licence has not always or consistently been available to women. There are countless examples of attempts to write women out of public discourse, Telemachus-style. As she draws closer to her suitor Basil Ransom a man endowed, as James stresses, with a rich deep voiceshe finds herself increasingly unable to speak, as she once did, in public.There was a pretty massive shift in the s and s when northern Democrats starting supporting the civil rights movement (among other things).
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Cuban literature is the literature written in Cuba or outside the island by Cubans in Spanish language. It began to find its voice in the early 19th century.
The major works published in Cuba during that time were of an abolitionist character.