Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Embodying sympotic experience: Anatomical manipulations of Athenian vases
by Coccagna, Helene Augusta, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2009, 288; 3395670
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I explore some of the many creative ways in which Attic craftsmen chose to play with the vase's anatomical parallels to the human body. I consider how these vessels would have been interpreted in the context of the symposium, a setting in which playfulness, wit, and a sense of competition played integral roles.

A philological survey of the shared vocabulary of vases and human bodies constitutes the first chapter of this dissertation. I pay special attention to instances when words can have multiple meanings, through devices like punning and double-entendre. This philological survey lays the essential groundwork for the visual study that follows, and is aimed at equipping the reader with the necessary terminology, and its implications, for a thorough analysis of the vases.

Anatomized vases that evoke the female sex are considered in the second chapter, where I concentrate on vases molded into the shape of a woman's head, mastoi, or conical cups in the form of a female breast, and instances of comparisons between the female body and amphoras. I analyze what these vessels can tell us about the preoccupations and concerns that led to the unique way that the female body was dismembered and quite literally objectified for the sympotic setting.

The third chapter, focuses on "male" vases, by examining a small but important group of Attic vases with phallus attachments and representations of these vases. My examination of these vessels demonstrates that they constitute visual instantiations of euphemisms and double entendres known from literary sources, including iambic poetry and comedy.

The final chapter shifts from the topic of embodiment in the physical sense to explore vases with inscriptions that appear to be spoken by the vessels themselves. The aim is to assess how the "speech" of vases compares to that of the symposiast.

This study reveals that the anatomical manipulations of Attic pottery reflect a deep understanding of how the human body was conceptualized and a willingness on the part of craftsmen to toy with these cultural perceptions, often to humorous effect.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shapiro, H. Alan
School: The Johns Hopkins University
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-A 71/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies, Art history, Ancient history
Keywords: Anatomical manipulations, Greece, Sympotic experience, Vases
Publication Number: 3395670
ISBN: 978-1-109-58546-9
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