Engendering antiquity: masculinity and ancient Rome in the Victorian cultural imagination

Eastlake, Laura Joanne (2014) Engendering antiquity: masculinity and ancient Rome in the Victorian cultural imagination. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines nineteenth-century receptions of ancient Rome, with a specific focus on how those receptions were deployed to create useable models of masculinity. I suggest that Rome represents a contested space in the Victorian cultural imagination, with an array of possible scripts and narratives that could be harnessed to articulate masculine ideals, or to vilify perceived deviance from those ideals. Thus, this thesis presents a model of nineteenth-century manliness wherein masculine dominance is derived from the perceived authority to assign meaning to Rome as an image, and to determine its usage either as a badge of merit or a condemnation of certain gendered traits.
After establishing in the opening chapter the centrality of Latin and a classical education to elite male identities at both individual and collective levels, the remainder of this thesis charts the place and function of the Roman parallel in the construction of several key ‘styles’ of nineteenth-century masculinity, from the man of letters and the industrialist, to the New Imperialist and the dandy. In this way I account for the multifarious and often contradictory treatments of the Roman example in Victorian literature where, for instance, the same Roman parallel was used to capture the martial virtue of Wellington as was used to condemn the deviance and degeneracy of Oscar Wilde. Understood through the lens of masculine identity, Victorian receptions of Rome become more comprehensible: Rome is contested because masculinity is contested; there are many competing visions of Rome because there are many competing styles of masculinity. Far from attempting to artificially homogenize or to impose a singular narrative of Victorian reception, the aim of this thesis is to explore its complexity and to explain its central conflict as a struggle over the codification of manliness whereby the cultural authority to assign meaning to the Roman age is equivalent to and indicative of the power to speak authoritatively about masculinity in the present.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Victorian Literature, Classical Reception, Masculinity, Rome, Ancient Rome, Gender Studies
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Williams, Dr. Rhian, Ferguson, Dr. Christine and Livingstone, Dr. Justin
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Dr Laura Eastlake
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-6087
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 Feb 2015 14:10
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2020 14:20
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/6087

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