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Textiles and Clothing Imagery in Greek and Latin Literature: Structuring, Ordering and Dissembling

Fanfani, Giovanni; Nosch, Marie-Louise; Harlow, Mary

The range of textile and clothing imagery in classical literature is immense. This chapter is meant to provide a theoretical and methodological frame for, and reflect on, the contributions collected in the volume Spinning Fates and the Song of the Loom. What emerges as a first general reflection is that is that an awareness of the craft and technology of weaving and spinning, of the production and consumption of clothing items, and of the social and religious significance of garments is key to appreciating how textile and clothing imagery and metaphors work in context, their suitability to conceptualize human activities and represent cosmic realities, and their potential to evoke symbolic associations and arouse generic expectations. This is all the more so when we regard imagery as a conceptual device, and not just an ornament of style; as a consequence, this paper positions textile imagery in classical literature within ancient and modern discussions on figurative language, from Aristotle to cognitive linguistics. By exploring instances of the ‘weaving a choral song/hymnos’ metaphor in their pragmatic and performative context, it is further argued that in the specific case of archaic Greek literature different approaches to poetic metaphor may be applied to the analysis of a particular sample of textile and clothing imagery.

Published in: Giovanni Fanfani, Mary Harlow, Marie-Louise Nosch (eds) Spinning Fates and the Song of the Loom. The Use of Textiles, Clothing and Cloth Production as Metaphor, Symbol and Narrative Device in Greek and Latin Literature. Ancient Textile Series 24, Oxbow Books, Oxford & Philadelphia 2016, pp. 323-339. Giovanni Fanfani's research for this paper has been supported by the MOBILEX Project of Danish Council for Independent Research under FP7-PEOPLE-2012- COFUND (DFF - 1321-00158).
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