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Introduction: or, Why this book does not exist

  • Frances Gray
Chapter
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Part of the Women in Society book series

Abstract

Once, you could be reborn. You became one with the goddess Demeter mourning her daughter Persephone, snatched away to hell for half the year, and you rejoiced with her in the symbolic birth of a holy child, the sight of whom blessed you into eternal life. So secret was this rite that even now we know only the ceremonies which led up to it. The initiates shed all distinctions of sex and status as they washed in the sea, the source of life, and dressed themselves in garments which were ever afterwards holy. They sacrificed pigs, symbols of both decay and fertility. They walked as if in mourning towards a fire so bright it could be seen from miles away, and as their walk drew to an end they crossed a bridge symbolic of the transition from sorrow to joy. On this bridge they encountered the rites known as the gephyrismoi: dirty jokes, songs and dances performed by a woman.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Congreve, A Letter to John Dennis Concerning Humour In Comedy, 10 July 1695. Reproduced in John Hodges, William Congreve: Letters and Documents (Macmillan: 1964).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    John Fisher, Funny Way to Be a Hero (Frederick Muller for Granada: 1973) p. 197.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Cited in Dyan Machin, Forbes magazine (November 1987).Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Cited Gilbert and C. Roche, A Women’s History of Sex (Pandora: 1989) p. 143.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Quoted in Fidelis Morgan, A Misogynist’s Sourcebook (Jonathan Cape: 1989) p. 126.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Translated by David Rosenberg, The Book of J (Faber & Faber: 1991) p. 71.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Reginald Blyth, Humour in English Literature: A Chronological Anthology (Folcroft: 1959) pp. 14–15. Also exhumed by Regina Barreca (see below). Two readers this decade is more than Blyth deserves.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    See Jennifer Coates, Women, Men and Language (Longman: 1986) p. 103.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Liz Lochhead, True Confessions (Polygon: 1985) p. 134.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Lesley Ferris, Acting Women (Macmillan: 1990) p. 29.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Debbie Reynolds, My Life (Pan: 1989) p. 259.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Barbara Windsor, Barbara (Arrow: 1991) p. 70.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Interview with Richard Merryman, 3 August 1962. Printed in Carl E. Rollyson Jnr, Marilyn Monroe: A life of the Actress (UMI Research Press: 1986) p. 208.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    Cited in Graham McCann, Marilyn Monroe (Rutgers University Press: 1988) p. 87.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    Quoted in Barreca, Last Laughs: Perspectives on Women and Comedy (Gordon and Breach: 1988) p. 4. Her detailed reading of Priestley makes clear how powerful the ‘small potatoes’ technique can be.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Linda Woodbridge, Women and the English Renaissance; Literature and the Nature of Womankind 1540–1620 (University of Illinois Press: 1984) p. 319.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    Hélène Cixous, The Newly Born Woman, translated by Betsy Wing (Manchester University Press: 1986) p. 89.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Frances Gray 1994

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  • Frances Gray

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