Review of Eros at Dusk: Ancient Wedding and Love Poetry, by Katherine Wasdin

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Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


This book is a beautifully written, well researched, and wide-ranging examination of the shared elements of ancient Greek and Latin wedding and love poetry. As Wasdin explains in her Introduction, nuptial poems eroticize the wedding, although in reality the couple's sexual desires were generally not a relevant factor motivating marriage in the Greco-Roman world, while in turn love poems often evoke nuptials even as they depict desire and relationships outside of marriage. In successive thematic chapters, Wasdin explores how in both genres we find night-time journeys from one doorway to another ("eros at dusk"), the symbol of the evening (and morning) star and poetic refrains, flower and vine imagery, horse, ox, and deer metaphors, heroic paradigms of Helen, Achilles, and Peleus and Thetis, thematization of charis (grace and/or gratification) and assimilation of the poem's actors to blessed divinity, and interacting tropes of persuasion and violence. But Wasdin goes far beyond identifying generic overlaps; she analyzes how wedding and love poetry often treat these common features in different ways, and this book's key contributions are Wasdin's delineation of the distinctive contours of each individual genre and her demonstration of their complex interplay in particular works. [excerpt]



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