Centaurs and Amazons

Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being
Page duBois
Traces the development of the Greek hierarchical view of life that continues to permeate Western society


In Centaurs and Amazons, Page duBois offers a prehistory of hierarchy. Using structural anthropology, symbolic analysis, and recent literary theory, she demonstrates a shift in Greek thought from the fifth to the fourth century B.C. that had a profound influence upon subsequent Western culture and politics.

Through an analysis of mythology, drama, sculpture, architecture, and Greek vase painting, duBois documents the transition from a system of thought that organized the experience of difference in terms of polarity and analogy to one based upon a relatively rigid hierarchical scheme. This was the beginning of "the great chain of being," the philosophical construct that all life was organized in minute gradations of superiority and inferiority. This scheme, in various guises, has continued to influence philosophical and political thought.

The author's intelligent and discriminating use of scholarship from various fields makes Centaurs and Amazons an impressive interdisciplinary study of interest to classicists, feminist scholars, historians, art historians, anthropologists, and political scientists.

Page duBois is Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California at San Diego. She is the author of Sowing the Body: Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women and Torture and Truth.

Praise / Awards

  • "Its great virtue lies in its bringing together of material in various fields—literature, philosophy, art, history—in order to characterize basic ways of thinking in a culture."
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Look Inside


Introduction     1

I. Centaurs and Amazons     25

II. Centauromachy/Amazonomachy     49

III. Greeks and Barbarians     78

IV. Humans and Animals     95

V. Men and Women     110

VI. Hierarchy     129

Conclusion     150

Index     153

Illustrations following page 82

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 176pp.
  • 8 pages of photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1991
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08153-0

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  • $20.95 U.S.

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