Mimetic Contagion in Cultic and Erotic Art
This chapter posits a theoretical basis for mimetic contagion and examines a wide range of cultural practices in which works of art are supposed to inspire direct imitation, especially focusing on the humbler discourses of homoeopathic magic, widespread cultic images meant to operate by persuasive analogy, and erotic art, both straightforwardly ‘pornographic’ and purportedly didactic. This broad survey of popular forms of mimetic contagion across Greco-Roman antiquity provides a general context in which the more historically specific claims about Terence’s Rome may later be situated. After many artefacts and literary works considered in this chapter, Xenophon of Ephesus’ novel, the Ephesiaca, provides a useful comparison for the Eunuch, not only due to the inspirational role of an erotic image hanging above a bed, but because this image, once imitated superficially, will prove itself to have an emblematic quality, recurring through the rest of the story in less obvious ways.
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