Visual Imagery in Parthenaic Song

Swift, Laura (2016). Visual Imagery in Parthenaic Song. In: Cazzato, Vanessa and Lardinois, André eds. The Look of Lyric: Greek Song and the Visual. Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song (1). Leiden: Brill, pp. 255–287.



This chapter explores the use of visual imagery in parthenaic song, and argues that it is a distinctive feature of the genre. The chapter examines visual imagery in the surviving partheneia (Alcman frr. 1, 3 PMGF, Pindar fr. 94b S-M) and contrasts this with the type of self-referentiality we find in choral lyric performed by male singers. While the identity of the singers is important to various types of lyric, it is only in partheneia that we find detailed descriptions of their appearance and actions. We find a similar fixation on the bodies of the performers in dramatic choruses who impersonate female singers, while other Greek texts which describe female chorality draw on this imagery. The chapter argues that this emphasis on the visual can be connected with the songs’ role in female transition and in displaying young women safely within their communities.

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