Players and spectators : exemplary performance, audience reaction, and gender in ancient Rome




Pittard, Andrea Lea

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In this dissertation, I examine ideal Roman masculinity, focusing on its performance and articulation through exemplary discourse. Roman manhood was highly performative and needed to be constantly demonstrated and approved for it to attain full social significance. This is underscored in many literary accounts of such performances, in which Latin authors highlight the public performance of masculine gender roles. These accounts do not only focus on the performers; the reaction and participation of both primary and secondary audiences are integral aspects of the performance. I include these audiences in my examination of gender performance, concentrating primarily on how gender performances and audience reactions were discussed via exemplary discourse. Exemplarity intersects with gender ideologies in significant ways and exemplary discourse serves as a primary means through which masculinity is discussed in Rome. This dissertation, therefore, has two focuses: exemplarity and masculinity. I use masculinity as a case study for exemplarity and examine the effects that exemplary discourse has on masculine ideologies. The first two chapters focus on exemplarity and examine how masculine gender ideologies and exemplary discourse intersect within broad moral and belief systems. In Chapter 1, I discuss normal and normative exemplary masculine ideologies and performances. I argue that performances and re-performances of ideals are instantiations of ideologies; that it is in these public enactments that ideologies exist and are reproduced by both individual performers and large audiences. In Chapter 2, I examine various mechanisms and themes in exemplary discourse that encourages this social reproduction.
In the second two chapters, I switch my focus and examine how performances and the treatment of those performances through exemplary discourses affect the substance of masculinity. In Chapter 3, I focus on instances when exemplary performances are used to alleviate tensions intrinsic to the situational nature of Roman gender and moral systems. In Chapter 4, examine masculine performances that magnify tensions caused by historical and social change. I conclude that the mechanism for continuity and change rely upon the same discursive spaces and techniques, which made for a malleable complex that could allow for circumstantial and situational shifts while maintaining the overarching ideological system.