Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Boundary violation and the body politic in Neronian literature
by Davison, Matthew Gebauer, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2009, 228; 3359248
Abstract (Summary)

Within the Latin texts of the Roman writers Lucan and Petronius, there are numerous examples of important physical and social boundaries being violated. In my dissertation, I address two important questions connected to both writers’ employment of boundary violation imagery: why are these writers so preoccupied with the breakdown and disintegration of important physical and social boundaries and what contributed to the prevalence of such imagery within their texts? My dissertation focuses upon the strong influence that Nero—an emperor notorious in our ancient sources for violating traditional physical and social boundaries—exerted upon two contemporary writers, Lucan and Petronius.

My view of Nero depends on Roman historiographical tradition, as represented by the historians Dio Cassius, Suetonius, and Tacitus. They each depict Nero as a notorious boundary transgressor, especially in public environments like the theater and arena. Lucan’s Bellum Civile and Petronius’ Satyricon are both filled with gladiatorial allusions and motifs which are closely connected to images involving boundary violation. Within environments such as the theater and arena, Nero transgressed important and clearly defined boundaries by performing as an actor and by encouraging other elites to perform as well. Inside the Roman arena, an elite male member of Roman society could experience a violation to his physical self and this sometimes caused him to question who he was as an individual (a Roman elite citizen being defined as impenetrable and an intact totality). As my study shows, Lucan and Petronius experienced similar concerns and anxieties about what made an individual and how he was defined. This is clearly reflected in their literary works as they present literary worlds in which physical and social boundaries are very fragile and easily violated.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Miles, Margaret M.
Commitee: Raschke, Wendy, Salzman, Michele
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Classics - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 70/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ancient languages, Classical studies
Keywords: Body politic, Boundary violation, Corporeality, Nero, Emperor of Rome, Petronius Arbiter, Political suicides, Roman Empire, Theatricality
Publication Number: 3359248
ISBN: 978-1-109-19759-4
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