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Adriana Cavarero: The Singing of the Syrens

Strand Campus, London

At this event, Adriana Cavarero presents a perspective on sirens in mythology. In a famous verse, T.S. Eliot writes, ‘I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me’. Whatever he may mean, and whatever his nostalgia for the Homeric heroes’ bygone times, he is right. The sirens do not sing to him, just as they did not sing to Ulysses. Neither do they sing to us. They sing to themselves, for their vocal pleasure, for the gratitude of being born and being alive. Whenever we sing it is perhaps so that this primordial gratitude may resonate in our vocal bodies.

Olivia Guaraldo will then respond to this argument, asking how can we resignify the Syrens, the patriarchal stereotype of either monstruous alterity or seductive femininity? In dialogue with Cavarero, she will investigate the possibility of recurring to the Syrens’ vocal pleasure – considered as the expression of an embodied autonomy which sings its gratitude for being born – to deconstruct the stereotype which still consigns femininity to the mirroring function of male ‘greatness’ (as Virginia Woolf points out in A Room of One’s Own).

[A PhD reading group on Cavarero’s book Inclinations will be organised, details tbc]

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