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Title: 'Memory wrapped round a corpse' : a cultural history of English Hecubas
Author: Kenward, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 2725 3542
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis investigates “English Hecubas” as they appear in the recurring stories my culture tells itself about legendary Troy. Analysing a necessarily select number of Hecubas, spanning from the twelfth to the twenty-first century, I uncover a history of intricate cultural negotiations as theatre, literature and pedagogy attempt to domesticate the grief-stricken Trojan queen and recruit the classical past into the service of an ever-changing English present. My interest lies in the performative potential of texts. I therefore consider the reception of English Hecubas as they are culturally activated, looking to textbooks and classrooms, play-texts and theatres, print material and their readerships, insisting that schoolmasters, pupils, actors, authors, spectators and readers remain visible as the creators of meaning. Adopting ‘Presentism’ (as developed by Terence Hawkes) as my theoretical approach, the thesis is structured achronologically. This configuration gestures toward a more synchronic reading of Hecuba, replicating twenty-first century encounters with ancient mythological characters, by starting with our present “situatedness” yet juggling accumulations of history gathered with each prior acculturation. Classical Hecubas (of Homer’s Iliad, Euripides’ Hecuba and Trojan Women, Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Seneca’s Troas), entered England in the Renaissance via the imported texts and tenets of continental humanism. Pre-existing Hecubas of England’s oral tradition, medieval romance epics and indigenous Troynovant myths were forced into dialogue with their long-lost textual origins. This clash of Hecubas occurred within a crisis of mourning, resulting from the Reformation’s radical alteration of English funeral rites, which left maternal grief a culturally contentious site of anxiety. Thus, within its eight-hundred year span, the thesis repeatedly returns to the Renaissance to investigate the origins of the modern English Hecubas with which I begin. Hecuba’s grief can lead her to gouge out men’s eyeballs and murder their sons; tactics of accommodation and assimilation have been necessary to render this potentially violent ‘alien’ valuable within England’s cultural lexicon. By exposing the systemic marginalisation, mitigation, suppression and sublimation of Hecuba’s maternal grief and fury, this study hopes to recuperate the value of Hecuba’s essential mourning work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts & Humanities Research Council (Great Britain) (AHRC) ; University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature