Thesis: Communicative failure and characterisation in the epics of Rome (Aeneid, Bellum Civile, Punica).
My doctoral project analyses communicative failures in three lengthy Latin poems, which are about different periods in the martial history of Rome: the Aeneid (29-19 BC), the Bellum Civile (62-65 AD), and the Punica (83-103 AD). The Aeneid is arguably the most influential work of Latin literature, but although the Bellum Civile and Punica were celebrated in antiquity, they have received less attention in modern scholarship.
The issue of communicative failure (and how this creates a paradigm of problematic heroism, and heroes who show a range of weaknesses) has been particularly neglected. From Aeneas' inability to talk to his divine mother or explain the necessity of his departure from Carthage to his lover Dido in the Aeneid, to Pompey's failure to convince his supporters to seek aid from Parthia which leads inevitably to his own death in Egypt in the Bellum Civile, and Scipio Africanus' disregard for the lessons of his dead father in the Punica, communicative failure plays an important but understudied role in Latin epic. Such episodes often offer an alternative to or reanalysis of the surface messages about what it means to be a man, a hero, or a character in epic or history.
My thesis will explore how these three poems use communicative failure to complicate and nuance the characterisation of their protagonists, and how this relates to contemporary concerns and debates about what it means to be a man of importance.
Supervisors: Prof. Helen Lovatt (University of Nottingham) and Dr Henriette van der Blom (University of Birmingham).