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The Forgotten Homerist: Reassessing William Ewart Gladstone's Role in the Victorian Reception of Homer (1872-1884)

RUINI, MADDALENA (2022) The Forgotten Homerist: Reassessing William Ewart Gladstone's Role in the Victorian Reception of Homer (1872-1884). Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis uses William Gladstone’s Homeric research to reassess the relationship between nineteenth-century Britain and the ancient past. Gladstone (1809-1898), who served as Prime Minister four times during the Victorian period, has often been dismissed as a scholar of Homer: too enthusiastic, too much of a dilettante, too ready to cast aside evidence. But, through a careful examination of unstudied archival evidence, it is possible to build a very different picture.
During the 1870s, Gladstone embarks on a Homeric campaign which changes his contemporaries’ understanding of time and history. By carefully exploiting recent archaeological discoveries – particularly in the case of Schliemann’s discovery of Troy – Gladstone works to bring both Homer and Troy out of the world of myth and into that of history. As this thesis will demonstrate, for many Victorians, Gladstone, not Schliemann, brought Homer’s Troy to light, in the ruins of Hissarlik.
Working behind the scenes, over the course of many years, Gladstone revolutionises his contemporaries’ understanding of the study of Homer. He pioneers the study of what he calls ‘Homerology’: a new approach to the poems. Gladstone’s Homerology sees the epics as vital sources for the scientific investigation of the ancient past. Gladstone presents Victorian Britain with a new model of time and history, where myth becomes a historical reality. Consequently, for Gladstone, it is the Homerist who, above all, has the right to write about the ancient past of man. Through a series of case studies - which have been unnoticed or unrecognised by previous scholarship, this thesis demonstrates that Gladstone’s Homer shaped many key Victorian discourses about the earliest history of mankind: from archaeology to evolution. In so doing, it makes the case for a granular, archive-driven methodology for classical reception, one which is equipped to capture the nuances, complications, and complexities of relationships with the ancient past.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Homer, Archaeology, W.E. Gladstone, Victorians
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:29 Sep 2023 10:46

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