Classics Senior Theses (2011-present)

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    The fall Of Oedipus : changes in his sense of identity and fate
    (2021-05) Rui, Yangshuyan
    In this thesis, I focus on Oedipus' sense of himself, regarding his kingship, social identity, and fate in Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus, and then draw out Oedipus' reactions and how emotions change when these subjects are discussed by other characters and the public. Unlike articles that examine the human perspective versus the divine perspective, I argue that Oedipus Tyrannus shows the examination that Oedipus as an individual has to go through in society; moreover, Oedipus cannot ignore the opinions of others or stick to his own preferences to maintain his image. Oedipus creates an ideal image of himself as king based on his past experiences and achievements and defines his own fate in advance, without knowing the public perceptions and ideas. In his search for the murderer, Oedipus discovers that his kingship is not as strong as he has thought, and that the foundation of his power is not entirely based on his accomplishments and experiences. When the king identity is shaken, Oedipus experiences his different identities in conversations with different characters. In this process, Oedipus completely falls out of the framework he originally set. Fate is explored at last, which undergoes frequent interpretations and comparisons by different characters; it eventually makes Oedipus realize that he has failed to define it.
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    Of epic proportions : an examination of Polyphemus, narrative, and culture in Greco-Roman epics
    (2021-05) Nicholson, Alice
    Polyphemus became a staple character throughout Greco-Roman epic, appearing in famous epics such as Homer’s Odyssey, Vergil’s Aeneid, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Using Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s “Monster Culture (Seven Theses),” an essay meant to read monsters through the cultures in which they appear, it is understood that Polyphemus is a cultural foil and antagonist. While the tradition of Polyphemus’ cultural readings in the Odyssey is long, there is a lack of such scholarship for the Aeneid and Metamorphoses. Using Cohen’s theses to frame my reading, I aim to suggest my own cultural readings through examining the duality of Polyphemus in the narration of each epic by looking at moments where Polyphemus is both violent and evoking pathos. This duality is contextualized through both the literary association of Polyphemus with the mythical Golden Age, a time of ease and the pastoral but also a lack of cultural progression, and the metaliterary interaction with literary predecessors. Through analyzing the violence and pathos in each epic, I suggest a cultural reading of Polyphemus as a representation of Greco-Roman anxieties about the past and discuss the complexities of such associations.
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    Fight or flight? : manifestations of moral injury in Homer’s Iliad
    (2021-05) Galumbeck, Alix
    While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder arises as a well described consequence of war, moral injury presents as a more nuanced manifestation of psychological damage. Coined by Jonathan Shay, moral injury examines the reaction of an individual to guilt, shame, and anger experienced during combat and how those emotions affect an individual’s duty of care and duty of loyalty. Applying the modern framework of moral injury, the motifs of τιμή (‘honor’) and κλέος (‘glory’) in Homer’s Iliad are analyzed to determine their impact on the development of epic heroes. Through their actions, diction, and interaction with others, the characters of Achilles and Hector will be evaluated to assess the influence of τιμή and κλέος on the moral injury that befalls these heroes. A detailed construct will show the evolution of these combatants’ journeys from the causation of the initial insult, through psychological injury, consequences of these injuries, attempts to reconcile their demons, and ultimate recovery.
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    Nemo at the oars : rowing in the ancient Mediterranean, from Homer to Virgil
    (2021-05) Barchas, Madison
    This thesis looks at rowing in the ancient Mediterranean World, specifically how the emergence of a special class of dedicated rowers in the 5th century intersects with a rise in the personification of boats in the art and literature of the time. While scholarly work has been focused primarily on the men who moved the boats, my research shows that it was instead the boats that were emphasized, and even humanized, in poetry, drama, and iconography. I begin with the Archaic period, specifically with Homeric poetry, and show how the epics portray boats and rowers as vital, even though the battles all take place on land. Then, I move to the Classical period, the core of the thesis, where we see that due to the increased strategic importance of the navy, pottery and plays are packed with images of rowing. However, while scholarship has long emphasized the role of rowers in this period, I will show that interestingly it was the boat which captured the imagination of the poets and artists of the time. The Hellenistic world and Rome round out this thesis, capping off my exploration of rowing and its depictions, offering some conclusions on how boats were seen during these time periods and how authors reached back to when boats captured the cultural imagination.