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'Rome's Immortal Fair': The Roman Matrona in the long eighteenth century imagination

NOLAN, SEREN,JULIA (2022) 'Rome's Immortal Fair': The Roman Matrona in the long eighteenth century imagination. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 07 March 2025.


This thesis explores receptions of Roman matronae in France, Britain and its American colonies during the Age of Revolutions. Roman matronae, were towering figures in the eighteenth-century political imagination. Heroines generally from the period of the Roman Republic, matronae were upheld in ancient histories and in later European culture as ‘female worthies’, exemplary monuments to stoicism, self-sacrifice, patriotism, and civic bravery. Invested with civic significance as wives, mothers and sometimes as civic agents in their own right, Roman matronae were, ancient worthies with an explicitly political inflection. Though championed in eighteenth-century culture as models for female political activity, the cultural power of the Roman matrona in this period has hitherto escaped scholarly analysis, obscured by more recent assumptions concerning the ‘hyper-masculine’ coding of the ‘idea of Rome’, and particularly Roman Republicanism, in eighteenth-century civic discourse. Through exploration of Roman matronae in eighteenth-century visual and material culture, this thesis seeks to complicate such assumptions and shed new light upon the important place ‘ideas of Rome’, occupied in the aesthetic, political, and intellectual identities of British and French women in the age of Enlightenment and Revolutions. First charting the rise of the Roman matrona in the literary public spheres of seventeenth-century France and eighteenth-century Britain, the chapters of the thesis in-vestigate the cultural and political work performed by the Roman matron in electoral politics, Republican and proto-feminist philosophy, and in the dramaturgy of the French Revolution, to demonstrate how matronae were made conduits for female virtue, patriotism, feminism, and classical erudition. In so doing, this thesis also reveals how women themselves engaged in dynamic processes of classical reception to claim space, agency, and citizenship within their political communities during the long eighteenth century.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Classical reception, visual culture, women, Enlightenment, Revolution, proto-feminsm
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:17 Feb 2022 09:38

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