This book contains ten essays that have been edited and revised—and in the case of the final one, substantially expanded for this collection. The essays have been arranged so as to indicate relations that suggested themselves as I reviewed the group.
The first one, “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought,” sets the stage for those that come after by introducing the basic theme of the book, the nexus of language, the female, weaving, and the construction of truth. In Greek thought, truth in language has a special relation to the female by virtue of her preeminent art form, weaving. The male Homeric bard inherits from Indo-European culture the designation of poetry as a weaving, the female’s art. Like her tapestries, his “texts” can suspend, reverse, and re-order time. He can weave the content from one world, whether real or imagined, into the interstices of another. As a virtual “mistress” of invention and of spatio-temporal ordering, the male poet shares the ambiguous power of the female Muses whose speech he channels: “we can,” they tell the poet Hesiod, “say false things like to real things, and whenever we wish, we can utter the truth.”
After this first essay, the others are arranged in three groups of three each, under rubrics that describe the relations I sense among them. I describe these rubrics by connecting them to aspects of this book’s cover image in the Preface. And in the analytical Table of Contents of the book, I try to convey this organization synoptically through titles for the groups and captions for the articles.
This order of the essays is also roughly chronological. As it moves through the various periods and places of my work, this book is increasingly gifted with debts.
Jean-Pierre Vernant, Marcel Detienne, Gregory Nagy, Jacques Derrida—without them, nothing. As this quartet shows, the essays in this book derive from the intellectual and cultural milieu of structuralist/post-structuralist thought.
In 1976, as an Assistant Professor at Princeton, I had the opportunity to organize one of the first conferences that focused upon the relation between Classics and structuralist/post-structuralist thought. Among the participants at that conference were three great exemplars—Pietro Pucci, Charles Segal, and Froma Zeitlin—whose influence has been a constant inspiration and permeates all of my work.
Other pioneers in this period created an atmosphere of amazing creative energy. Nancy Felson, John Peradotto, Carl Rubino—I remember with special thanks how they not only inspired me with their own writing, but also gave me ideas and occasions to present my work in lectures, and edited it for publications. And it is a pleasure to recall with fond gratitude the many projects and the personal impact of Deborah Boedeker, Page duBois, Helene Foley, and Marilyn Arthur Katz.
For us in the USA at this time, much of our inspiration came from Paris. I am grateful to all of those there whose work meant so much to us, and especially to Marcel Detienne and Nicole Loraux for the opportunity to present in their seminars the first version of “Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: Tradition and Rhetoric, Praise and Blame” in this collection. The audience there lavished their learning upon the text with penetrating questions and suggestions. In particular, I thank Françoise Frontisi-Ducroux, François Lissarrague, and Giulia Sissa.
Moving to Los Angeles in 1980 brought me into the orbit of four scholars whose brilliance is matched only by their generosity. I thank Bernard Frischer for his boundless intellectual philoxenia and constructive energy. I thank Daniel Selden for the range of his knowledge—with every conversation, I learned something new about Classics or contemporary theory—and for his acute and tirelessly supportive editing of “Architecture Gender Philosophy.” The insights of Bruce Rosenstock into the philosophies of Plato and Derrida were a source of abiding pleasure and an essential stepping-stone, in particular, toward “Sacred Apostrophe: Re-Presentation and Imitation in Homeric Hymn to Apollo and Homeric Hymn to Hermes” in this collection. And for his ever ready willingness to help me, drawing from his command of the Greek language and philosophy, both ancient and modern, I will be ever thankful to David Blank.
In the mid-’80s my work turned toward architecture, when Michael Rotondi, the director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture, invited me to teach theory there. I am grateful to him for opening this door. With the kind permission of my Chair Bernard Frischer and Dean Herbert Morris, I was able to accept this invitation, while continuing my regular teaching at UCLA. This was the time when the philosophy of Derrida was making its impact upon architectural theory and practice. Thanks to the support of SCI-Arc (as the Southern California Institute of Architecture is abbreviated), I was able to attend the conference on architecture and deconstruction that first stimulated “Architecture Gender Philosophy” in this collection. This essay was first presented in 1988 at a conference at the Chicago Institute for Architecture and Urbanism organized by its director, John Whiteman, and Jeffrey Kipnis. I am grateful to the Institute for a fellowship there in 1989–1990, where the essay was completed, to John Whiteman for an enduring example of the sophisticated blend of architectural philosophy and practice, and to Jeffrey Kipnis for the influence of his unique architectural genius.
Two other essays in this collection stem from this period of blend-ing Classics with architectural thought. Each was graced with expert editing by dear friends. Sarah Morris provided “The (Re)Marriage of Penelope and Odysseus” with incisive advice and cross-references. The urban design and theoretical writing of architect Diana Agrest inspired “Female Fetish Urban Form.”
In the mid-’90s my pursuit of architecture led to my becoming a student in the Master of Architecture program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. I owe the opportunity to acquire this degree to a leave from UCLA granted by the Chairs, David Blank, Sarah Morris, and Robert Gurval. Their support of this unorthodox pursuit reflects the appreciation in our department of interdisciplinary study of Classics. I continue to be strengthened by their colleagueship, along with the fund of knowledge and expertise offered by our other Hellenists, Michael Haslam, Katherine King, Steven Lattimore, Kathryn Morgan, John Papadopoulos, Alex Purves, Giulia Sissa, and Brent Vine.
The making of a book is always a challenging enterprise. In the case of this collection, the labor was lightened by the pleasure of collaboration. I am grateful to Suzanne Lye for careful checking of formatting tags and to Katherine Bergren for eagle-eyed correction. Jill Curry Robbins of the Center for Hellenic Studies lavished her expertise as an art historian and graphic designer on the project, discovering the tapestry by Dora Wheeler at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and choosing the font for the cover. Leonard Muellner shepherded the text with ever ready optimism and elegant advice. For his indefatigable implementation of formatting tags, his acute editorial taste, his comprehensive bibliographical knowledge, and his refined intellectual judgment, I thank Lorenzo Garcia. And for help with proofreading, the checking of references, and the creation of the index, I am immensely grateful to Alex Press.
And finally, I extend my deepest gratitude to Diane Davisson, Carolyn Dewald, Natalie Boymel Kampen, and Laura Slatkin—all along, their creativity and compassion have been a lifeline—and to Taylor Bergren-Chrisman, who lights my way.