Theoretical Beginnings. Pandora.

— theōria

— anatomical difference
— genos gunaikōn
— matriarchy
— cyborg

1. Page duBois, Sowing the Body (1988: 7)

“Critics, like artists, must ‘defamiliarize’ the historical world for themselves and their readers. Otherwise we are operated by the assumptions, by the ideologies, of our own world, devoured by habitudinization, unable to think toward change because we accept the categories of our own ideological location. Our own critical practices, like artistic practices, are sustained ideological labor…Our views about gender, like other categories of existence, must be defamiliarized, interrogated, not taken for granted as universal constructs. Feminist criticism has sought to disrupt what we might see as the male narcissism of traditional scholarship, which considers only the role of the male in culture, by looking at women in history.”

2. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (1986: 15):

“The approach we use in interpretation — our conceptual framework — determines the outcome. Such a framework is never value-free. We ask the questions of the past we want answered in the present.”

3. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (1986: 31):

“It may be noted that I am defining matriarchy as the mirror image of patriarchy. Using that definition, I would conclude that no matriarchal society has ever existed.”

4. Page duBoisSowing the Body (1988: 10-11): quoting Freud

“[Freud] says, in speaking of children’s differing reactions to the sight of the genitals of the opposite sex:

‘They [little girls] notice the penis of a brother or playmate, strikingly visible and of large proportions, at once recognize it as the superior counterpart to their own small and inconspicuous organ, and from that time forward fall a victim to envy for the penis.’ [SE 19: 252]

The little boy’s reaction is very different. At first he ‘sees nothing or disavows what he has seen’ (SE 19: 252]. Later, if he remembers the sight when he has been threatened with castration, he is forced to believe in the real possibility of the threat being carried out. He has ‘two reactions, which may become fixed and will in that case… permanently determine the boy’s relation to women: horror of the mutilated creature or triumphant contempt for her’ (SE 19: 252). Freud’s description of this stage of children’s development ends with a dramatically phrased, theatrical assertion:

‘A little girl behaves differently. She makes her judgement and her decision in a flash. She has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it.’ [SE 19: 252]”

5. HesiodTheogony (8th c. BCE), 561-613:

(561-584) So spoke Zeus in anger, whose wisdom is everlasting; and from that time he was always mindful of the trick, and would not give the power of unwearying fire to the Melian race of mortal men who live on the earth. But the noble son of Iapetus outwitted him and stole the far-seen gleam of unwearying fire in a hollow fennel stalk. And Zeus who thunders on high was stung in spirit, and his dear heart was angered when he saw amongst men the far-seen ray of fire. Forthwith he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for the very famous Limping God formed of earth the likeness of a shy maiden as the son of Cronos willed. And the goddess bright-eyed Athene girded and clothed her with silvery raiment, and down from her head she spread with her hands a broidered veil, a wonder to see; and she, Pallas Athene, put about her head lovely garlands, flowers of new-grown herbs. Also she put upon her head a crown of gold which the very famous Limping God made himself and worked with his own hands as a favour to Zeus his father. On it was much curious work, wonderful to see; for of the many creatures which the land and sea rear up, he put most upon it, wonderful things, like living beings with voices: and great beauty shone out from it.

(585-589) But when he had made the beautiful evil to be the price for the blessing, he brought her out, delighting in the finery which the bright-eyed daughter of a mighty father had given her, to the place where the other gods and men were. And wonder took hold of the deathless gods and mortal men when they saw that which was sheer guile, not to be withstood by men.

(590-613) For from her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women (genos gunaikōn) who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no help in hateful poverty, but only in wealth. And as in thatched hives bees feed the drones whose nature is to do mischief — by day and throughout the day until the sun goes down the bees are busy and lay the white combs, while the drones stay at home in the covered beehives and reap the toil of others into their own bellies — even so Zeus who thunders on high made women to be an evil to mortal men, with a nature to do evil. And he gave them a second evil to be the price for the good they had: whoever avoids marriage and the sorrows that women cause, and will not wed, reaches deadly old age without anyone to tend his years, and though he at least has no lack of livelihood while he lives, yet, when he is dead, his kinsfolk divide his possessions amongst them. And as for the man who chooses the lot of marriage and takes a good wife suited to his mind, evil continually contends with good; for whoever happens to have mischievous children, lives always with unceasing grief in his spirit and heart within him; and this evil cannot be healed. So it is not possible to deceive or go beyond the will of Zeus.

6. HesiodWorks and Days (8th c. BCE), 90-105:

(90-105) For before this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sickness which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman [=Pandora] took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds. But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils and the sea is full. Of themselves diseases come upon men continually by day and by night, bringing mischief to mortals silently; for wise Zeus took away speech from them. So is there no way to escape the will of Zeus.

7. Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto” (2016*: 7): 

“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism — in short, cyborgs. The cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation.”

*originally published 1985.

8. Attic red-figure vase (calyx-krater), c. 450 BCE. Top register: Pandora is created. Bottom register: satyrs dance to music played by the central wreathed youth. Pandora (center), wearing a chiton, holding a wreath in each hand. The gods approach her either side. In the close-up: Athena offers a wreath (left), Ares holds spear and shield (right). Images: British Museum.

calyx krater with pandora close up 1856,1213.1 .jpgcalyx krater with the making of pandora 1856,1213.1 British Museum.jpg

English translations: Hesiod’s Theogony, Hugh G. Evelyn-White (1914); Hesiod’s Works and Days, Hugh G. Evelyn-White (1914).