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Gender and Power in the Senecan Corpus

NGAN, SOPHIE,YUEN,TING (2024) Gender and Power in the Senecan Corpus. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores constructions of gender in the Senecan corpus. Seneca’s different constructions of gender are demonstrated to share concerns with the constraint and lack of constraint upon action.
Chapter One discusses Seneca’s Thyestes, illustrating that its protagonist, Atreus, performs extreme, unconstrained actions, in a display of hypermasculinity. The idea of hypermasculinity is, in the Roman world, conceptually unusual, particularly in its unequivocal binary opposition to effeminacy. In presenting Atreus as hypermasculine, Seneca encourages the reader to reflect upon gendered models of ethics.
Chapter Two explores constraint of action in Seneca’s Epistulae Morales. The concept of patientia, which has effeminising potential, is rehabilitated by Seneca as masculine. This chapter discusses the conceptual and pedagogical tricks Seneca uses in his Epistulae in order to convince his reader of this idea.
Chapter Three considers Seneca’s Medea, particularly in comparison with the Thyestes. I illustrate the juxtaposition of, on the one hand, the lack of moral constraint manifested in Medea’s actions and, on the other hand, the social constraints Medea clearly experiences and articulates. In acting for the benefit of others, Medea experiencing constraints upon her autnomy. The fact that a figure as seemingly unconstrained as Medea has the capacity to experience social constraint highlights the issue of social constraints upon women.
Chapter Four analyses Seneca’s consolationes ad Marciam and ad Helviam, with a view to understanding how Seneca addresses women philosophically. By addressing women philosophically and by allowing them the capacity to achieve philosophical virtue, Seneca seems to permit them a remarkable degree of philosophical autonomy. At first glance this seems at odds with Roman, conservative conceptions of gendered ethics. However, through conceptual and rhetorical trickery, Seneca limits the practice of philosophy to a select group of women, and directs women’s philosophical aims towards their practical roles as wives and mothers. 

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2024
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:16 May 2024 09:07

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