Thursday, October 25, 2007

Joan Breton Connelly's Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece reviewed in the TLS by James Davidson

TLS publishes "Last week's Letters," amongst which is a response to Davidson's review:-
Sir, – James Davidson’s review of Joan Breton Connelly’s Portrait of a Priestess: Women and ritual in Ancient Greece reduces a series of unresolved debates – into which Connelly’s book quite self-consciously intervenes – into a pathetic contest for unattainable rightness. As any careful reader of Connelly’s book knows, and as Davidson concedes, she adduces massive and painstaking archaeological evidence to argue that, in ancient Greece, some women – elite women, to be sure – had important public roles as priestesses. As any careful reader knows, but as Davidson completely fails to acknowledge, Connelly understands that the interpretive significance of this evidence is a matter of historical, historiographical and – yes – feminist debate. That Davidson disagrees with Connelly in these debates is no ground for his attack on her decision to focus on priestesses and on the scope of their power and agency. What – is she supposed to write his book, not hers? That is what his complaint that she does not emphasize “sacred prostitution”, instead, boils down to.

JANET HALLEY
Harvard Law School, Hauser Hall 424, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138.

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