Grammatical Gender and Transformation in Ovid's "Metamorphoses"
Lees, Rebecca Yasmin
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Lees, R. Y. (2019). Grammatical Gender and Transformation in Ovid's "Metamorphoses" (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.38244
Ovid’s Metamorphoses offers a meandering sequence of mythological transformations with no formal scheme – or so scholars have long thought. This thesis wagers that the poem does offer a scheme for understanding the world, which lies in the relationship between the biological sex and social gender of its characters on the one hand, and the grammatical gender of the things that they become on the other. Romans understood biological sex and grammatical gender to be connected, as Anthony Corbeill’s 2015 Sexing the World: Grammatical Gender and Biological Sex in Ancient Rome has recently shown. This connection is driven by a process Corbeill calls “heterosexualisation”: the determination – which accelerated in the Augustan period – to divide the world into two fixed categories of binary gender, both in language and in other areas of Roman culture. This dissertation explores how Ovid’s myths of transformation both reinforce and undermine the contemporary heterosexualising drive, uncovering how the outcomes of metamorphosis are determined by considerations of each character’s biological sex and levels of conformity to social expectations of gendered behaviour. This thesis finds that Ovid’s transformations fit the heterosexualisation narrative in their frequent avoidance of stating nouns where grammatical gender would be at odds with the character’s original sex, and in the gendered hierarchies that are uncovered when the grammatical gender dynamics of transformations of male characters are compared with those of female characters, both mortal and immortal. In other areas, Ovid queers this narrative, such as with married couples whose joint transformations border on the hermaphroditic, metamorphoses of the natural landscape that resist the commonly held assumption that the earth is a feminine, generative body, and five narratives of sex-change that present the audience not with two binary genders, but a spectrum of gender. Though a compilation of far-fetched stories of humans spontaneously being turned into animals, gods, and features of the natural landscape, this dissertation reveals that Ovid’s Metamorphoses offers important insights into how Romans sexed their world.
gender, sexuality, ovid, latin, grammar, grammatical gender, augustan, literature, roman
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.38244
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