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duBOIS, Page

PERSONAL:

Female. Education: University of California at Berkeley, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—University of California at San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr., LIT 3454, LaJolla, CA 92093-0410. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER:

University of California, San Diego, professor of classics and comparative literature.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Univeristy of Michigan Press, Alice and Edith Hamilton Prize, 1978, honorable mention for Centaurs and Amazons: Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being.

WRITINGS:

Centaurs and Amazons: Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1982.

History, Rhetorical Description, and the Epic: From Homer to Spenser, Biblio Distribution Services (Totowa, NJ), 1982.

Sowing the Body: Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1988.

Torture and Truth, Routledge (New York, NY), 1991.

Sappho Is Burning, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1995.

Trojan Horses: Saving the Classics from Conservatives, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Slaves and Other Objects, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

Ancient Greek theorist Page duBois has been publishing academic texts since the early 1980s, tackling potentially controversial subjects and ideas within classical texts, often from a feminist perspective.

The first published work of duBois's to receive widespread critical attention was 1982's History, Rhetorical Description, and the Epic: From Homer to Spenser, wherein she examines the ways pictorial art is described (a device known as ekphrasis) in such epic works as the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Divine Comedy, and the Faerie Queen. Writing for the Comparative Literature journal, Marilynn Desmond found the book "tightly focused" and "concisely argued." Desmond concluded that duBois's work "makes valuable observations about epic as a genre, about ekphrasis in narrative, and about the Classical tradition in Western literature. It presents a model comparative, historical methodology. And finally, this book presents a large historical vision—a history or metahistory of epic from its origin in Homer to its breakdown in Spenser."

DuBois's next major work, Sowing the Body: Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women, critiques from a Marxist perspective the ways in which psychoanalysis of the past century used classical representations of women in its gender discourses. M. Dobson of Choice noted that duBois looks at how the ancient Greek texts used agricultural images such as fields, furrows, and stones to create exclusively female metaphors and that the scholar "is at her best when she connects earth/body metaphors with transformations in the sociopolitical order." Dobson continued, "This provocative but flawed book should be read with caution—it is bound to cause controversy." Marilynn Desmond, writing for Comparative Literature, found duBois's argument "exceptionally bold—even radical," and noted, "As a classicist, duBois has a legitimate quarrel with psychoanalysis—a discourse that has authorized such powerful appropriations of Greek culture that particular texts, such as the Oedipus, or particular mythic figures such as Medusa, are almost impossible to extricate from their Freudian context."

Torture and Truth examines how modern readers and scholars receive and read classical works in light of the knowledge that the ancient Greeks and Romans tortured their slaves. In the Classical Review Edith Hall declared, "This passionately committed polemic scrupulously avoids sensationalism of its repellant subject-matter" and "is a brave attempt to make Classical Antiquity pertinent to the contemporary world." Anthony Consiglio of the Classical World stated that "duBois's conceptualization of the problem is bold, insightful throughout, and stimulating."

DuBois returned to a more overtly feminist topic with Sappho Is Burning, asking, according to Penelope Murray in the Times Literary Supplement, "why the only voice of female desire that has come down to us from classical antiquity has been obliterated from the history of sexuality." Murray praised duBois for being "acutely alive to the aesthetic resonances of Sappho's poetry, but also stress[ing] the need for historical perspective and a sense of the difficulties of reading [Sappho's] work, which cannot be easily accommodated either by the masculinist history of sexuality, or by contemporary constructions of lesbian sexuality." Marilyn B. Skinner, writing for the Classical Outlook, observed: "There are some philological and methodological issues that duBois fails to address.… Still, I cannot really fault the sustained brilliance of this analysis."

In 2001 duBois published a scholarly attempt to counter the use of the Greco-Roman classics by conservative commentators (such as William Bennett) and academics (such as Allan Bloom) to promote political and moral agendas. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that in the "highly polemical attack" of Trojan Horses: Saving the Classics from Conservatives duBois "disputes [the] conclusions [of conservatives] by arguing that those with whom she has issue distort through simplification the context and meaning of much of their evidence."

In Slaves and Other Objects, duBois looks at how today's literature and museums downplay the troubling presence of slavery in ancient Greek art, literature, and society, and how the use of slaves in that period has been misrepresented, distorted, or ignored by persons on all sides of the issue.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Choice, April, 1983, review of History, Rhetorical Description, and the Epic, p. 1129; March, 1989, review of Sowing the Body: Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women, p. 1148.

Classical Outlook, fall, 1996, Marilyn B. Skinner, review of Sappho Is Burning, p. 40.

Classical Review, January, 1993, Edith Hall, review of Torture and Truth, pp. 125-126.

Classical World, November, 1989, Robert Rousselle, review of Sowing the Body, p. 118; November, 1992, Anthonly Consiglio, review of Torture and Truth, p. 175.

Commonwealth, March 10, 1989, Margaret R. Miles, review of Sowing the Body, p. 155.

Comparative Literature, winter, 1986, Marilynn Desmond, review of History, Rhetorical Description, and the Epic, pp. 96-98; spring, 1991, Marilynn Desmond, review of Sowing the Body, pp. 180-182; summer, 1995, Katherine Callen King, review of Torture and Truth, pp. 260-263.

New Statesman & Society, March 1, 1996, Paul Cartledge, "So Different and So Long Ago," review of Sappho Is Burning, pp. 36-37.

Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2001, review of Trojan Horses: Saving the Classics from Conservatives, p. 76.

Times Literary Supplement, April 12, 1996, Penelope Murray, "In Search of Honey-Voiced Sappho," review of Sappho Is Burning, pp.11-12.

Women's Review of Books, April, 1996, Mary Leoffelholz, "One of the Boys?," review of Sappho I Burning, pp. 15-1.*

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