The female body in Latin love poetry Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Damer, Erika Zimmermann
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
  • This dissertation seeks to rethink the female body in Latin love elegy in its aesthetic and political significance, and argues that the sexualized body creates poetic subjectivity. It juxtaposes close readings of the elegies of Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid alongside contemporary theorizations of the female body found in Irigaray, Kristeva, and Grosz. By expanding critical focus to encompass all the women of elegy, this dissertation demonstrates a surprising ambivalence towards the female body in a genre that claims to celebrate female beauty, and offers a new view of elegy's role within Roman conceptions of gender, sexuality, bodies, and empire. Chapter one offers a brief introduction to contemporary feminist theories of the body as well as an overview of critical literature on the elegiac body. Chapter two examines Lucretius' diatribe against love, Horace Epodes 8 and 12, and the Augustan marital legislation as major background for elegy's female body. Chapter three explores the representation of elegy's other women. The imagery of blood associates the elegiac mistress with grotesque representations of her family members, and of the elegiac procuress, the lena. This chapter draws on Kristeva's abject body, as well as ancient notions of feminine corporeality, to argue that the elegists make the female body a stumbling block for their speakers and that this conceptual failure is manifested in grotesque images of the female body. Chapter four demonstrates that Propertius creates the catalogue of cultus and that Tibullus and Ovid incorporate this poetic topos in their own elegies. The catalogue of cultus substitutes descriptions of luxury goods and adornment for a coherent image of the puella's sexualized body in Propertius, while Tibullus uses cultus to respond to Propertian elegy and to Catullan invective. Chapter five finds the sexualized female body in Cynthia's and Acanthis' bodily-centered speeches. This chapter argues that Cynthia mobilizes the sexualized female body as a critique of the dominant voice of the male poet-speaker, and makes use of Irigaray's concept of mimetism to link the sexualized body with an elegiac feminine voice.
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  • James, Sharon
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