Saturday, December 15, 2007

Women Influencing (Aristotle)

A blogger friend of mine, Suzanne McCarthy, just posted at Suzanne's Bookshelf on an incredible woman who influenced many of us: Lottie Moon. Suzanne shows how "Lottie Moon is one more of those admirable 19th century feminists." But most histories of the amazing Moon have not conceived of her in this robust way. Thankfully Moon was not silent, and some following her influence recall her voice.

This post is a request for similar recovery. How can we imagine the robust Greek (woman's) discourse around Aristotle's influential Rhetoric when we don't know (well) the women around him?

Thankfully because of the recovery work of historians such as Cheryl Glenn, Susan Jarratt, Rory Ong, and C. Jan Swearingen, we are coming to know a good bit more about the influences of Sappho, Aspasia, and Diotima on their own histories, their own rhetorics, and their own societies of women and men (including the likes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander). Thanks to the translation work of translators such as Anne Carson, Willis Barnstone, and Jane McIntosh Snyder, we get the robust discourse of Sappho. (And Carson's is the best because she provides us readers with an interlation: her [i.e., Sappho's] very Hellene fragments and her [i.e. Carson's] also poetic English).

But what do we know of Phaestis (Aristotle's mother), Erpyllida (the foster mother), Arimneste (the older sister), Pythias (the first wife who bore their daughter), Pythias (the daughter), Herpyllis (the second wife who bore their son Nichomachus, the namesake of Aristotle's father)? Who are Aristotle's grandmothers, and what do we know of them, and what did he know because of them? Does anyone still hear the voices of these women who Aristotle, likely, could not help but hear?

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