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Title: Heroic self-fashioning in Statius' 'Thebaid'
Author: Tang, Henry Ka Chun
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 4483
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis will examine how heroes attempt to create their own heroic identity in Statius' epic poem, the Thebaid. The Thebaid is a poem with no single central character, but a central group of heroes of relatively equal standing. Among this large crowd, each individual attempts to prove their heroic worth by manipulating narratives about themselves. In this way, they hope to improve their standing in society, and their chances of being remembered well by posterity. But heroic identity relies on the recognition of society, meaning reputation is difficult to control among the public. Therefore, these individuals must perform a heroic identity, so that society would actually recognise them in such a way. However, the Thebaid is a poem about failure. Few of the heroes remain alive by the end of the poem. Fewer still remain with their good reputations intact. In their attempts to push pass the limits of humanity to gain eternal fame, most commit terrible sins. The heroic greatness that they claim to have in their self-presentations is therefore called into question by the Thebaid's narrative and its narrator, who condemns the actions of the heroes throughout the poem. Throughout my project, I will be interested in the gap that forms behind the heroic image, which the heroes create about themselves in their narratives, and those of the main narrator. The narrator will consistently undermine the efforts of the heroes, encouraging counter-interpretations to the heroic image that the characters hope to cement. In my first chapter, I will examine how the heroes create narratives about themselves by trying to control the discourse about their family. This can involve suppressing or even changing details from their family history, so that their ancestors will have a positive effect on their reputation. In my second chapter, I will examine how the heroes manipulate the rhetoric about monster-slaying. The heroes attempt to portray themselves as forces of good, removing evil monsters from the world; in reality, they themselves become monstrous through their actions, and become a source of evil to the world. My final chapter will examine the relationship between the text and contemporary Flavian society. I suggest that Flavian society was one that was self-conscious about self-portrayal, and that a discourse had arisen about the appropriate ways in which this should be done. I hope to show that the attempts of the heroes to make themselves look like heroes are a reflection of these contemporary anxieties.
Supervisor: Hardie, Philip Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Statius ; Thebaid ; Hero ; Flavian