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Greek Laughter and TearsAntiquity and After$
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Margaret Alexiou and Douglas Cairns

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474403795

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403795.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 29 March 2020

Laughing at Eros and Aphrodite: Sexual Inversion and its Resolution in the Classicising Arts of Medieval Byzantium

Laughing at Eros and Aphrodite: Sexual Inversion and its Resolution in the Classicising Arts of Medieval Byzantium

Chapter:
(p.263) 16 Laughing at Eros and Aphrodite: Sexual Inversion and its Resolution in the Classicising Arts of Medieval Byzantium
Source:
Greek Laughter and Tears
Author(s):

Alicia Walker

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474403795.003.0016

The social and cultural authority that images exercised in medieval Byzantium derived in part from their consistent observance of established traditions of representation. As a result of this tendency toward recognisable types, when an intentional departure from visual conventions was introduced, Byzantine viewers could be expected to notice the difference and wonder about the intentions behind it. This chapter explores how Graeco-Roman mythological and romance narratives offered opportunities for the engineering of amusing imagery through strategies of inversion and exaggeration. It focuses especially on how this up-ending of visual conventions served to disrupt the expected order of gender relations. The chapter shows how the programmes of middle Byzantine works of classicising art used humour initially to destabilize – but ultimately to reaffirm -- social norms surrounding female sexuality.

Keywords:   Byzantine art, Secular art, Ivory, Silver, Mythology, Romance, Veroli Casket, San Marco Censer, Visual humour, Inversion

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