Space, memory and ideology in Statius' 'Silvae' : applying Nora's concept of lieux de mémoire to a Flavian poet
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In my thesis I investigate the interaction between space, memory and ideology in Statius ‘Silvae’. Previous scholarship on the ‘Silvae’ tends to focus on matters of ideology, perceiving Statius’ encomiastic message as either subservient of submissive. I try to get away from this two-sided debate by focusing on Statius’ use of memory instead, using the concept of lieux de mémoire coined by the French historian Pierre Nora. As some scholars have noted (most notably Geyssen and Newlands) the ‘Silvae’ are quite unique in using spatial and architectural descriptions as the main principle of organization for individual poems. What makes Statius’ approach truly unique in my opinion, however, is his tendency to tap into memories associated with specific locations. In the imperial poems of the ‘Silvae’, which are devoted to Domitian, Statius uses these sites of great symbolical and cultural significance, which Nora would call lieux de mémoire, to evoke images and concepts in his audience’s mind which are subsequently used to construct new explicitly Domitianic lieux de mémoire. As I argue, this process can take on four distinct forms or phases: conflict, appropriation, obliterations, and construction. At the centre of my investigation are three case studies, three of the four imperial poems of the ‘Silvae’, each representing one particular type of lieu de mémoire: the monument, the memory landscape, and the ritual/festival. The first chapter discusses Silv. 1.1 on the ‘Equus Domitiani’, a new monument in the forum that competes with the old monument and the respective memories that they represent. The second chapter deals with Silv. 4.3 on the new Domitian Highway. This new road activates memories in the Campanian countryside which are then used by Statius to create a new Domitianic narrative. The last chapter deals with the imperial palace as described in Silv. 4.2. Here, the omnipresence of Domitian pushes out all other memories, creating the new ritual of the ‘Epulum Domitiani’ in the process.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2021-12-06
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 6th December 2021
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