Classics MA Theses (2010-present)

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    The Good, The Bad, and…The Funny?: The Fusion of Comedy and Horror in the Character of Polyphemus
    (2022) Nicholson, Alice Elizabeth
    Polyphemus is a dynamic character appearing in multiple genres across Greco-Roman literature such as Homer’s Odyssey, Theocritus’ Idylls, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Within these works, there is a tension between his dual identity as epic monster and pastoral shepherd, both of which manifest through the presence of the grotesque and its juxtaposition with the pastoral in various works. Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the grotesque from Rabelais and His World as well as Jeffery Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Culture (Seven Theses),” it can be understood that the grotesque provides comedy and horror in monstrosity. First establishing these interactions between comedy, horror, the grotesque, and the pastoral, I aim to examine the comedy and horror present in each work, arguing the duality of Polyphemus comes from the juxtaposition between the grotesque and pastoral imagery present in each episode. Through his pastoral setting and grotesque nature, Polyphemus becomes an agent of the Hesiodic Golden Age. Polyphemus then embodies the Bakhtinian suggestion that the Hesiodic Golden Age is not only alive but an alternate way of life amidst the contemporary world of figures such as Odysseus and Galatea.
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    Beyond Augustus as Aeneas: Parallels between Ascanius and Octavian in Vergil's Aeneid
    (2022) Fitzpatrick, Mallory Mae
    This thesis examines surprising parallels between the figure of Vergil’s Ascanius and the historical figure of Octavian, later known as Augustus Caesar, which have been overlooked. A close examination of the text reveals a striking number of similarities between these two figures, especially in the thematic areas of inheritance, military achievement, survival and restoration, and divine favor. These themes, widely relevant to Vergil’s Aeneid as a whole, also reflect contemporary anxiety about the socio-political climate of Rome in which Octavian rose to power and indeed contemporary concerns about Octavian as Rome’s new leader. The ambiguity of Ascanius, who can be both a positive and negative character in the epic, was also appropriate for Octavian, whose rise to power was at once encouraging and alarming for many Romans. Vergil’s text, shaped by decades of traumatic civil war, draws attention to these similarities between Ascanius and Octavian and their subsequent connotations and participates in contemporary discourse about Octavian who, like Ascanius, inspired both hope and fear in his people as he took control of Rome.
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    Dismembered According to the Rigor of Harmony: A Structuralist Reading of Zosimos' "Visions"
    (2022) Lawson, Devin Nicole
    The "Visions", a spiritual alchemical text by the Late Antique alchemist Zosimos of Panopolis, abounds in bizarre and violent imagery: a sacrificing priest is dismembered harmonically, people are boiled alive and transformed into spirit, a man gnaws off his own flesh before vomiting it back up, and a snake is dismembered before being made into the step of a temple. The odd and confusing imagery makes the text difficult to interpret. In this thesis, I utilize a structuralist reading of the "Visions" in order to argue that Zosimos’ role and agency change throughout the text, a transformation that is mediated through Zosimos’ regular and repeated emphasis on proper method and systematicity. Since the events of the text reflect both practical and spiritual alchemical processes, the "Visions" represents Zosimos’ transformation into a competent alchemist, simultaneously capable of transmuting copper into gold and purifying his soul by liberating it from the constraints of the body in a methodical and systematic manner.
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    Love, hate, pain, and revenge in Seneca’s tragedies
    (2021-05) Glaser, Jenni
    The perennial problem of reconciling the character of Seneca the philosopher and Seneca the playwright is both my concern in this thesis, and not my concern at all. While Seneca the Stoic preaches a strict control of emotion, Seneca the tragedian revels in all the gory and devastating consequences of passions run amok. Scholars have debated whether Seneca uses the plays to provide moral instruction through positive or negative models, or whether there is no meaningful connection between the philosophy that pervades his letters and the plays. I would like to propose a middle ground – another way of looking at the relationship between the plays and Stoic philosophy that can exist side by side with any of these theories. Seneca uses the plays to explore a world according to Stoic principles, whether there is a moral component or not. I will show this through an examination of the Thyestes and the Phaedra. Seneca writes the plays as a Stoic, and therefore the “world” of his plays works according to Stoic theory. This means that the characters and their emotions function in accordance with Stoic theory, whatever the lessons Seneca intends to impart. Therefore we as readers can learn something about Stoic emotional theory from examining the actions of the characters in the plays even if we cannot divine Seneca’s educational program explicitly from those plays. This frees us from questioning whether Phaedra is a negative exemplum of abandoned passion or whether Thyestes, with all his flaws, is actually a Stoic sage, without ignoring the depth of Stoic influence on the characters all the same.
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    Cato Maior and Laelius as imagines maiorum
    (2019) Shaw, Joshua
    Cicero’s Cato Maior and Laelius, just a “pair of minor dialogues,” have struggled not only to secure consistent names for themselves but even a dependable characterization of their genre. However much the variations of title and description may reveal of the dialogues’ complexity, they surely reveal uncertainty about their form and purpose. In response to this difficulty, I argue that we must consider these works as especially for Atticus. Cicero’s relationship to Atticus and Atticus’s interests should therefore prompt and drive this study. After justifying the treatment of Cato and Laelius as a pair, I examine the place of history in these dialogues, especially as seen in Cicero’s characterization of Cato and Laelius therein as well as the family tree of the Cato in which he roots the Laelius. Following Harriet Flower’s great treatment of ancestral masks (imagines maiorum), we briefly sketch out the primary purposes of imagines, finally returning to Atticus and arguing for the propriety of such a work to this dedicatee. To this end, I argue that Cicero made literary imagines maiorum as a tribute to Atticus’s love of and request for history and family history in particular. In the end we shall see that the imagines dissolve the tension between drama and history: they were the means whereby Romans brought their past to life at every funeral in a great historical pageant.