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Gendered Twisted Gifts in Greek Antiquity. Discursive Constructions of Male and Female Corruption from Homer to the Roman Conquest

The subproject “Gendered Twisted Gifts in Greek Antiquity” examines discourses on Twisted Transfers in a gendered pattern. In order to understand what constitutes a Twisted Transfer, it is first necessary to investigate and define those transfers that were conceived as “Correct”. The Correct Transfer comes to represent at the discursive level a normative ideal, which in turn can be used to show which transfers deviate from it and thus can be defined (and criticised) as twisted. At the centre of this project is a specific category of Twisted Transfers, that of “false gifts”. False gifts stretch throughout most fields of social life, as they can be transferred for example in the context of bribery and embezzlement, but also as a dowry or in the context of prostitution, and can assume a huge variety of material forms. Women appear in this context and in the relative discourses not only as actors of the exchanges (both as givers and receivers) but also as objects of the transfer. The overall aim of the project is to show, deploying the instruments of historical discourse analysis, to what extent male and female corruption (gr. diaphtheiro) differ or are similar to each other in ancient Greek mentality and norms. The timeframe spans the entire period from the Homeric texts – taken as relevant indicators of valid discourses, considering their role in defining norms and values – to the Roman conquest. As all normative ideals, also the definition of a Correct and of a Twisted Transfer shifts continually; the project will therefore investigate with particular attention whether it is possible to identify signs of cultural change leading to changing norms and different perceptions of what is socially acceptable and what represent a deviance from the norm. Among the research questions considered are thus for example: Which material gifts are considered as particularly “wrong” when given across the gender boundaries (by a man to a woman or by a woman to a man)? Are specific kinds of gifts and transfers represented differently if the actants belong to the same gender? How are transfers between the human and the divine sphere represented, when the humans and the deities belong to different genders?