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Safer, J.M. (1985). The Family, Women and Death: Comparative Studies: By S. C. Humphreys. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983. 210 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 54:668-670.

(1985). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 54:668-670

The Family, Women and Death: Comparative Studies: By S. C. Humphreys. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983. 210 pp.

Review by:
Jeanne M. Safer

The intriguing title of this volume is something of a misnomer. Humphreys's book is actually a collection of essays on classical anthropology. Only one essay is specifically comparative, and none attempt to relate the three topics in the title to one another.

Of the eight papers which comprise the book, half contain material of interest to psychoanalysts. The range of the remainder is unusually comprehensive: a summary of the proceedings of an anthropology conference, a review of the work of a nineteenth century predecessor, and an illustrated study of the placement of tombs and Athenian tomb-cults. The more pertinent essays concern ancient Greek conceptions of the public and private spheres and Greek attitudes toward women, death, and dying.

Gleaning what is relevant is no easy task for the nonspecialist. The author assumes familiarity with the terminology of her discipline (many ancient Greek terms are not translated), as well as with the lesser known classical dramas. Some of the most thought-provoking observations are to be found in appendices and footnotes. For example, an appendix on Greek sexuality notes that bisexuality was considered normal, that male homosexuality was not associated with effeminacy, and that homosexual relationships offered both men and women more intimacy than any other in the culture.

Humphreys's style is unusually clear for a scholarly work, and her point of view is persuasive.

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