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Safer, J.M. (1990). Sowing the Body. Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women: By Page duBois. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1988. 227 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:486-490.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:486-490

Sowing the Body. Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women: By Page duBois. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1988. 227 pp.

Review by:
Jeanne M. Safer

The founder of psychoanalysis was a philhellene, as is apparent from his antiquities-cluttered desk and the name of the most famous complex he invented. He frequently cited classical authorities and Greek mythology for confirmation of his discoveries and validation of his theories about the human psyche, particularly the centrality of castration anxiety. In Sowing the Body, Page duBois, a feminist classics scholar with Lacanian and Marxist sympathies, challenges Freud's interpretation of these ancient sources. Her work offers a fresh and provocative, if somewhat quirky, perspective both on Greek concepts of sexuality and gender differences and on some of the fundamental assumptions of psychoanalysis.

The focus of duBois's inquiry is the depiction of the female body and references to feminine attributes in the art, literature, and culture of Greece of the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., with a special emphasis on pre-Socratic sources. She traces the metaphors by which women were described in myth, drama, poetry, and philosophy, and demonstrates how and why these images were transformed over time.

Five types of representations of the female body are delineated here in the order of their emergence in Greek consciousness: field, furrow, stone, oven, and tablet. According to duBois's analysis, the earliest Greek image of the feminine principle is that of the fertile field, a metaphor in which the female earth is the fruitful, self-sufficient ("parthenogenic"), and spontaneous producer of life and food.

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