Korinna (c. 400 BCE?)
The freedom with which Korinna moves among mythic and contemporary subjects suggests that Boeotian women, like those of Lesbos, wrote without any constraints due to her gender. She sometimes specifically addresses her work to women, but at other times her audience is specifically male or mixed. Raynors note (181) points out that Korinna describes her art in gendered terms, remaking the logia pateron or father-songs to delight her towns women.
1) In #1s reference to Terpsichore, muse of dance, Korinna aligns her poesis with the use of words to organize human movement. This could be compared with Alkmans parthenaeia (#1 on 31-4). How does Korinnas gender figure into her project of revision? Can you see this as a kind of danced "conspiracy" (especially in the words root sense of a "breathing together")?
2) Later in #1, she refers to having "adorned the leader Kephisos with stories. Think about the way a poem "hangs words upon" its subject. Can the adornment of the subject also adorn the poet? (Compare the dual achievement of kleos or fame by both poet and subject in Ibykos #5 (93-4 and see Raynors notes on 173 and 175).
3) #2s singing contest between two mountains plays with a human social custom attributed to geographical features. What might be meant by the "singing" of mountains? Does Gouchers campus "sing" to Towson and vice versa?
4) #3s speaker is involved in one of the many "bride thefts" or socially orchestrated rapes by which the ancient gods were said to bring forth heroes by mating with moral women. The practice is social reality in some cultures, where the grooms male relatives "raid" the brides home in a prearranged mock combat to carry her off to the grooms household. (This might even follow a normal "courtship" in which the brides free consent was involved.) Its use in myth also can result from aristocratic families which wish to claim descent from the gods. What does Korinnas tone tell you about her attitude toward the gods abduction of Asopos daughters?
5) Fragment #9 is a perfect example of all that tantalizes and frustrates the reader of early women poets. See Raynors note (183-4) for a good summary of the possible ways this apparently unambiguous statement might be read. Note, too, the tradition that Myrtis was Korinnas and Pindars teacherthis suggests that poetic authority among women was well-established in the early Classical era (c. 600-500 BCE). Also see the note to fragment #10, which may be part of the same poem (184).
6) #13s reference to Thespia, a town at the foot of Mount Helikon with a sanctuary sacred to the Muses, gives us a useful example of where mythic beliefs which inspire poets may arise from ordinary social practice. The towns "mouseion" was one of three different places in Greece which claimed to be the site of the Muses birth. Each site told the story differently, with a different mother and father deity. Competition among the sites for pilgrims seeking inspiration encouraged poets to promote the sites and their own relationship to them as sources of poetic authority, not unlike alumni/ae magazines praise of colleges to promote the reputations of their graduates. All this crass commercialism might obscure the inspiring function of such a place, however, unless we allow ourselves to believe as an honest, well-informed classical poet might believe, that the site of the Muses origin might really possess the power to enhance the gift of song.