Ancient Sex

New Essays

Edited by Ruby Blondell and Kirk Ormand
Epilogue by David M. Halperin

Classical Memories/Modern Identities


Literary Criticism/Ancient & Classical; Literary Criticism/Gay & Lesbian
384 pp. 6x9

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Lambda Classical Caucus


Ancient Sex: New Essays presents groundbreaking work in a post-Foucauldian mode on sexuality, sexual identities, and gender identities in ancient Greece and Rome. Since the production of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, the field of classics has been caught in a recursive loop of argument regarding the existence—or lack thereof—of "sexuality" (particularly "homosexuality") as a meaningful cultural concept for ancient Greece and Rome. Much of the argument concerning these issues, however, has failed to engage with the central argument of Foucault’s work, namely, the assertion that sexuality as we understand it is the correlative of a historically specific form of medical and legal discourse that emerged only in the late nineteenth century.

Rather than reopening old debates, Ancient Sex takes up Foucault’s call for discursive analysis and elucidates some of the ways that ancient Greek and Roman texts and visual arts articulate a culturally specific discourse about sexual matters. Each contributor presupposes that sexual and gendered identities are discursively produced, and teases out some of the ways that the Greeks and Romans spoke and thought about these issues. Comprising essays by emerging and established scholars, this volume emphasizes in particular: sexual discourses about women; the interaction between sexual identities and class status; gender as an unstable discursive category (even in antiquity); and the relationships between ancient and modern sexual categories.

Ruby Blondell is Professor of Classics at the University of Washington, and Kirk Ormand is Professor of Classics at Oberlin College.