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Daughters of HecateWomen and Magic in the Ancient World$
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Kimberly B. Stratton and Dayna S. Kalleres

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195342703

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195342703.001.0001

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Magic, Abjection, and Gender in Roman Literature

Magic, Abjection, and Gender in Roman Literature

(p.152) 5 Magic, Abjection, and Gender in Roman Literature
Daughters of Hecate

Kimberly B. Stratton

Oxford University Press

This chapter’s reading of Roman depictions of women’s sorcery situates those portraits of magic in the context of ancient conceptions of the body and concerns over the instability and mutability of bodies and society. The chapter enlists the concept of abjection as developed by Julia Kristeva to illuminate certain features of these portraits—namely, their consistent identification of magic with unstable bodies, identities, and threats to social order. Kristeva’s notion of abjection explains not only the association of magic with the macabre in these portraits, but also helps to illuminate the frequent association of women with certain types of destabilizing magic in Roman texts. While the gendering of magic is by no means consistent or universal in the ancient Mediterranean, this way of reading depictions of women’s magic permits us to see how ideas about magic reflected and were embedded in other social concerns and ideological systems.

Keywords:   Abjection, Kristeva, magic, sorcery, women, unstable bodies, identities

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