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Title:Reading character in Suetonius’ De vita Caesarum
Author(s):McVey, Aine Clancy
Director of Research:Augoustakis, Antony
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Augoustakis, Antony
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Traill, Ariana; Leon Ruiz, Daniel W; Walters, Brian
Department / Program:Classics
Discipline:Classical Philology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
ancient biography
reader-oriented criticism
Julius Caesar
Abstract:How does the form of a literary text contribute to its function? This project addresses that question by examining how the structure (form) of Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus’ imperial biographies, De uita Caesarum (DVC), contributes to the characterization (function) of its subjects through the process of reading. Suetonius arranged his biographical material according to both chronology (per tempora), and topic (per species), and scholarly judgment on the success or failure of Suetonius’ character portrayal is inextricably linked with discussions of the text’s structural arrangement. I address how textual structure can contribute to character construction by utilizing fields of cognitive narratology, including reader-oriented criticism and theories of text-processing. Chapter 1 considers how aspects of sequential dynamics can be used to construct character by elucidating the character’s motivations or psychology through the recognition of causal links in the first seven anecdotes of the Diuus Iulius. Chapter 2 addresses the question of how the information in the chronological sections of the Diuus Iulius connects to the topical sections in the process of characterization through the construction of mental models and cognitive processing of material. Chapter 3 expands the methods from Chapters 1 and 2 to consider issues of coherence in four other biographies of the series which have traditionally piqued mixed or negative assessments of character portrayal: the Diuus Augustus, the Tiberius, the Domitianus, and the Diuus Claudius. In the Conclusion I illustrate how Suetonius’ reader constructs both a categorized mental model of the emperors as well as a personalized model in their respective biographies.
Issue Date:2019-04-15
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Aine McVey
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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