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Why is Sulpicia a Woman?

  • Author / Creator
    Kletke, Stefanie L
  • Today it is relatively unquestioned that Sulpicia, the elegiac woman of [Tib.] 3.8-18, was a historical woman of the same name who lived and wrote Latin elegies in Augustan Rome, and that the poems attributed to her are autobiographical records of love, thereby making Sulpicia a Roman version of Sappho. However, if the extant evidence is given a closer look, a different picture emerges. Specifically, if one recognizes the generic conventions at play in the poems, there is no longer reason to date them to the Augustan period, nor to read the figure of Sulpicia as different than any other constructed elegiac woman, nor to read the poems as disconnected from the rest of the genre of Latin love elegy. Rather, the poems quite likely date to after the heyday of the genre, and thus they appear to be pseudepigrapha or chronological fakes, written to recall and respond to the work of the canonical elegists and the Greek roots of the genre. And, if this is their correct context, it follows that the figure of Sulpicia was specifically chosen by the unknown author to provide a particular interpretation and/or comment on the genre, not unlike the fictional figure of Diotima in Plato’s Symposium. The Sulpicia that then emerges is not a Roman Sappho in the sense that we would like her to be, but rather a purely literary figure such as she is portrayed in the first known post-classical construction of her by the humanist Giovanni Pontano. Though such a reading may result in the loss of what was previously thought to be the only extant work of a female Roman poet, this justifiably renewed line of research into male authorship for the poems brings with it much potential.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2014-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3R20S35N
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Master's
  • Department
    • Department of History and Classics
  • Specialization
    • Ancient Societies and Cultures
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Stewart, Selina (Classics)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Wiesenthal, Christine (English)
    • Nagel, Rebecca (Classics)
    • Sweeney, Dennis (History)