Gender, Rhetoric, Authority: Ovid's Fasti and Augustan Thought on Women Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Wise, Jessica
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
  • This dissertation studies Ovid’s Fasti and contemporary Augustan Rome. In this poem, Ovid provides explanations for Rome’s religious festivals, featuring numerous stories of Rome’s mythic foundations. These tales were newly prominent in Ovid’s time: Augustus used foundational legends to showcase his relationship to Rome’s founders and to assert divine authority for his rule. In art, architecture, law, and his public calendar, he promoted a narrative of Rome’s origins in which men supervised state and religion, while women acted chiefly in the domestic sphere. In the Fasti, by contrast, Ovid examines the female experience: multiple voices and perspectives offer a complex picture that challenges the imperial vision. By allowing women to articulate the sexual violence beneath many of Rome’s rituals (e.g., the Matronalia and the Compitalia), Ovid highlights female experience as foundational to Roman religion and identity. He vividly illustrates the agency of women in bringing peace and prosperity to the state by depicting women such as Lucretia, the Sabine women, and Claudia Quinta as speaking or acting decisively and taking control of their circumstances. Where male behavior is often impulsive (e.g., Mars) or ineffectual (e.g., Numa), women (e.g., Carmentis, Rhea Silvia) predict the future, behave rationally, and even redeem male disorder. Chapter 1 provides a background of Augustan thought on women. Chapter 2 reviews Ovid’s works from the Heroides to the Fasti, tracing his representation of the female voice and experience of sexual violence. Chapter 3 treats Fasti 2: studying two themes male vis and the silencing of women. Women’s voices, ultimately stolen, represent contradictory or alternative accounts of Roman ritual erased by powerful male figures. Chapter 4 studies Fasti 3, highlighting the persistent juxtaposition between the foolish or destructive male figures (Mars, Romulus, Bacchus, Aeneas) and the rational, productive female characters (Rhea Silvia, Sabine Women, Ariadne, Anna Perenna). Chapter 5 examines Fasti 4, which features numerous festivals of production (Fordacidia, Parilia, Vinalia) with special emphasis on the role of mothers in the Megalensia and the Cerealia. Ovid consistently obscures distinguishing markers between matronae and meretrices, suggesting that the state necessarily incorporates and relies upon women of all classes.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Keith, Alison
  • Grillo, Luca
  • James, Sharon
  • Newlands, Carole
  • Valladares, Herica
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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