A body that matters? - Jane E. Harrisons epistemologische ontdekking van de ‘Grote Moeder’ en de rol van de Chôra | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 16, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1388-3186
  • E-ISSN: 2352-2437


No other researcher of religion revolutionized the way we look at Greek antiquity like the Hellenist, archaeologist and feminist Jane Ellen Harrison (1850-1928), who taught at Newnham womens College, Cambridge (UK). Harrison’s avant la lettre performative and material turn challenged the text-based approach to Greek culture. The article reconstructs parallels between Harrison’s and the early work of Luce Irigaray on the ‘feminine’ and the maternal body as the excluded figure – the – of the patriarchal symbolic order. It starts historically with the parallel ‘events’ of the archaeological ‘discovery’ of the ‘matriarchal’ Minoan culture of the ‘Great Mother’ on Crete, and Harrison’s epistemological reconstructions. Methodologically it combines close readings of her texts, inspired by feminist theories especially Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray with a history of knowledge approach. The article focuses on a reconstruction of Butler’s and Irigaray’s discussion of the Platonic concept of and relates it to Harrison’s attempts to formulate a non-phallocentric notion of a matrilineal culture. Her utopian idea of maternal symbolizations is based on an ‘energetic’ notion of the maternal and an ethic in the ‘name-of-the-mother’. Is there a ‘third’ way to considering the material-maternal-matter, that does not imply a rejection of discourse analysis, nor an essentialist understanding of ‘femininity’?


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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