PRINT September 1991


Most of the reasoning of women and poets is done in parables. Now think of a spider.

—Denis Diderot

If another and later species comes to reconstruct the human being from the evidence of our sentimental writings they will conclude it to have been a heart with testicles.

—Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

A woman cannot speak of her pleasure.

—Jacques Lacan

ARACHNE, OVID TELLS US in Book VI of The Metamorphoses, was a motherless girl “with neither family nor proper place” who angered Pallas Athena by daring to rival her at the loom. This presumptuous girl, whose “art alone had given her rewards,” knew herself equal to Athena, and with breathtaking arrogance “she denied the goddess was her teacher, / And took offense when art was called divine. /‘Let her compete with me,’ she cried. ‘If she/ Does better, I shall give up everything.’” Looking at the results of the contest, “not even Pallas nor

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