La vita degli oggetti: il ruolo della cosa donata in Seneca

Lavinia Scolari


This paper highlights the very active role of objects in the practice of gift exchange, focusing on the representation of munus and donum which emerges from Seneca's De beneficiis and Medea's tragedy. Examining the function of the gift and its cultural patterns permits a critical comparison with anthropological studies concerning the theory of the spirit of the gift (hau) formulated by Marcel Mauss and the theme of inalienable gifts, elaborated by Annette Weiner. Such an analysis emphasizes the objects' propensity to stimulate the memory of the receiver and to arouse his gratitude. Moreover, the gift, imbued with the giver's identity, is suitable to replace him not only in gift-giving relationships, but also in the practice of revenge. That is the case of the poisoned gifts which Medea offers to her rival, pledges of her ancestry and, in this respect, inalienable instruments of her vengeance.

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