Scholia Reviews ns 13 (2004) 23.
Katherine Haynes, Fashioning the Feminine in the Greek Novel. London and New York: Routledge, 2003. Pp. viii + 214. ISBN 0-415-26210-0. UK£15.99. Further Details.
Edmund P. Cueva
Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio
Katherine Haynes' Fashioning the Feminine in the Greek Novel seeks to examine gender patterns in this once neglected genre. The first two chapters, for the greater part, supply the scholarly background to work done on the feminine in the novel. For example, in Chapter 1, 'Reading the Feminine' (pp. 1-17), the author evaluates the 'vexed question of female prominence' (p. 1) in the novel.[] Did these texts show that there was an improvement in the status of women or that this genre had a primarily female audience? The answers are found in focusing not solely on the feminine, but rather in a larger discourse on 'élite male self-definition' (p. 2). Haynes artfully leads the reader through the 'scholarly unease' (p. 3) associated with this complex genre that has love as its central theme. In the case of female readership, the interrelationship between society, culture, ideology, and the politics of the Greek East under Roman domination must be paramount in any investigation. In addition, if possible, the literacy rates for both women and men, the cost of the novels, and possible scribal readership must be determined. In reviewing the internal and external evidence for readership, the author does not look for one 'universalising theory' but opts for an 'eclectic pluralism' (p. 10) that does not disregard the fact that the ancient Greek novel is a 'sophisticated literary product' (p. 15). In Chapter 2, 'Contextualising the Feminine' (pp. 18-43), there occurs a deconstruction of the modern 'scholarly fascination with the patterns of femininity displayed in the novels'.[] Haynes once again calls attention to the belief that any understanding of the feminine can best be formulated through an awareness of the co-option of the female image in order to clarify the status of males in society. Haynes attempts to define the 'ideal female' in this genre by comparing women in the novel with models of Greek womanhood from Classical Athenian literature (comedy, drama, and historiography), Hellenistic papyri (marriage contracts) and literature (New Comedy), the Romanized Greek East (benefactresses), and the Christian community in the first three centuries, where women may have had more power than usual in the Graeco-Roman world (p. 36).
The next two chapters, 'Heroines' (pp. 44-80), and 'Heroes' (pp. 81-100), are cautiously balanced. In Chapter 3,[] Haynes dissects the heroines from each of the five canonical novels and the novel fragments, while never losing sight of the fact that these women are literary products who to some extent assume freedoms normally only granted to males (p. 45). Once again, emphasis is placed on the larger discourse of self-definition that must take place in order that these heroines and their unique place in Greek literature can be appreciated and valued. For example, Longus gives us a story that superficially seems simple and straightforward, but on a closer reading the narrative is full of contradictions, which afford the reader the possibility for 'reading against the text' (p. 61). That is, that Chloe stands for something far 'more important than who she is' in the narrative (p. 67). Heliodorus, on the other hand, creates a more powerful heroine than previously encountered, who perhaps has ceased to be real. The heroine is supreme in the emotional sphere, but her intrusion in the male- dominated social sphere demonstrates a 'possible subversive streak' that must be kept in check by 'convention' (p. 78). In Chapter 4,[] the author attempts to define 'heroism' as it is actualized in the novels. This definition is not based on one universalizing theory, but rather on an approach that tries to encompass the multitude of permutations that construct the hero. It can be generally agreed that the hero is segregated from the crowd by his high birth and exceptional physical good looks (p. 83), he is loyal to his friends but not necessarily chaste, and somewhat rhetorically competent for the purposes of demonstrating a 'commitment to his beloved rather than demonstrating his superiority in the public realm' (p. 88). Keeping in mind that both the hero and the heroine suffer in the genre, Haynes augments the definition of the hero by noting that the hero also expresses himself through 'traditionally feminine passivity' (p. 97) that generates in the hero the need for 'proofs of masculinity' (p. 100).
As in Chapters 3 and 4, Chapters 5 and 6 are parallel in their construction. Chapter 5, 'Minor Female Characters' (pp. 101-36),[] begins with the premise that 'to understand the heroines in isolation is not to understand them fully at all' (p. 101). The author accordingly finds it necessary to examine briefly Chariton's Stateira, Achilles Tatius' Melite, Longus' Lykainion, Xenophon's Kyno and Manto, and Heliodorus' Demainete and Arsake. These foreign women appear to share with the heroines the need to be kept in check in order that they do not destabilize the social norm. These women are not as carefully constructed as the heroines and therefore 'can be extremely revealing with regard to generally held assumptions about female behaviour' (p. 123). It is clear that the negative quality of these characters undermines any claim that the novels had a primarily female readership. Even those minor female characters that do have admirable traits such as intelligence evoke fear, 'or at the very least unease' (p. 128), and display their intelligence with a 'dangerous effect' (p. 130). These characters, moreover, destroy the domestic (female)/public (male) dichotomy by venturing outside the traditional confines of the house and thereby transgressing the traditional prohibition against female involvement in civic life (p. 136). The minor characters may shed more light on the true status of women in the Graeco-Roman world than the heroines. Chapter 6, 'Minor Male Characters' (pp. 137-55),[] examines the influence of class, race, and age on the formulation of male identity as a whole and in specific contexts (that is, minor male characters fall into three categories, antagonist, friend, or parent).
The last chapter, 'Telos' (pp. 156-162),[] is the most disappointing of all the seven chapters. After all of the interesting observations made in the preceding chapters, the author makes several intriguing statements that are never fully developed or explored. For example, she notes that marriage functions as 'a social index, with those who do not aspire to the state most expressive of adherence to civic values automatically relegating themselves to the margins of society' (p. 156), and 'the most striking manifestations of novelistic femininity were at least in part conditioned by the need to assert an almost provocative sense of Hellenic superiority' (p. 161). These fascinating but unsupported statements are indicative of the one fault of this book: many interesting suggestions are made in a desultory fashion that obviates any cohesive argument. I do, however, recommend the text because it will afford greater discussion of a subject that needs greater and more detailed attention.
[] Chapter 1 is divided into subsections entitled 'Framing the question' (pp. 1f.), 'Readers of the feminine?' (pp. 2-10), and 'How to read the feminine' (pp. 10-17).
[] Chapter 2 is divided into subsections entitled 'Finding a reference point -- putting the feminine in context' (pp. 18f.), 'Using the feminine -- the pagan context' (pp. 19-30), and 'Using the feminine -- the Christian context' (pp. 30-43).
[] Chapter 3 is divided into subsections entitled 'Negotiating the theoretical minefield' (pp. 44-46), 'Kallirhoe' (pp. 46-51), 'Anthia' (pp. 51-56). 'Leukippe' (pp. 56-61), 'Chloe' (pp. 61-67), 'Charikleia' (pp. 67-73), and 'Interpretative strategies' (pp. 73-80).
[] Chapter 4 is divided into subsections entitled 'Measuring masculinity -- ideologically invested assessments' (pp. 81-83), 'Constructions of novelistic heroism' (pp. 83-93), and 'Interpretative strategies' (pp. 93-100).
[] Chapter 5 is divided into subsections entitled 'Patterning femininity' (pp. 101f.), 'The female antagonists' (pp. 102-15), 'Mothers' (pp. 115-23), 'Confidantes' (pp. 123-30), and 'Marginal female characters' (pp. 130-36).
[] Chapter 6 is divided into subsections entitled 'Constructing masculinity' (p. 137), 'The male antagonists' (pp. 137-43), 'Fathers' (pp. 143-49), 'Friends' (pp. 150-54), and 'The male landscape-minor characters and collectives' (pp. 154f.).
[] Chapter 7 is divided into subsections entitled 'Love and marriage' (pp. 156f.), 'Maintenance of the social order' (pp. 157-59), and 'Subversion of the social order?' (pp. 159-62).