Til bevillingsoversigt

Masculine Identities in Classical Greece

Carlsberg Foundation Reintegration Fellowships


The project explores the construction of masculine identity in a set of Classical Greek texts (Homer, Sophocles and Plato) in which men identify with or appropriate roles that are culturally defined as female. This identification with the female is closely connected to a position of critique or opposition. To take a female role is also to adopt a different set of values, otherwise considered unmanly: passivity, love and receptivity as the basis of a different relation between self and world. In this way, the texts challenge, criticise and negotiate normative masculinity through behaviour which is characteristically un-manly. The project aims to uncover how such feminine behaviour influences and constructs notions of self and identity.


Besides contributing with new knowledge about the specific texts it examines, the project offers new insight into an aspect of Ancient Greek masculine identity which has been largely ignored by scholars. While traditional accounts of Greek sexuality and personhood focus strongly on dominant norms and ideals, this project focuses on behaviour that falls outside these norms. The project thus changes and broadens our understanding of Greek masculinity and the history of the male subject. Because of the importance of the ancient Greek evidence in all later discussions of European identity, gender and sexuality, the outcome of the project will be important to a range of other fields, such as philosophy, sociology and gender studies.


The project is based on readings of well-known, canonical texts. It will result in a series of articles, each devoted to an individual text. Its novelty lies in its approach, which is partly described above. Theoretically, queer theory and theory of affect are important to the study, offering models for evaluating the type of gender non-conformity we find in the texts.


This project partakes in a struggle to diversify research in classics by looking closer at aspects and marginalised or ignored subject-positions in antiquity. Greek and Roman classics have played a key role in the formation of European identity and have, furthermore, been at the centre of modern discussions about gender and sexuality (notably in Foucault's History of Sexuality). By changing and nuancing our understanding of how gender and identity relate in ancient Greece, the project ultimately seeks to deepen our understanding of these topics today.