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Title: Engendering the future : divination and the construction of gender in the late Roman Republic
Authors: Mowat, Christopher James
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This study brings together constructions of divination and gender in the Late Roman Republic, and argues how each influenced the performative nature of the other. Divination is usually understood as a standardised process of interpreting varying signs, through which a person can gain access to knowledge otherwise unattainable, often relating to the future. To construct divination as performative considers how the different elements of divinatory traditions, including, but not limited to, the identity of the divinatory actors, are the very factors that confirm the correctness of the interpretation and thus the reality of divination. This thesis argues how the performativity of gender informed, but was also informed by, the performativity of divination in the Roman world, in a reciprocal and inseparable relationship. The first chapter focuses on Cicero’s De Diuinatione, a mid-first century BC text that presents two sets of opposing views for and against divination. My reading shows how gender is axiomatic to – but never explicit in – these opposing viewpoints. Four chapters follow, each taking a specific divinatory tradition as a case study, and exploring constructions of gender across them: the Sibylline Books, as written prophetic guides for the State; the construction of the birth of an intersex child as a prodigy under the Republic, and the ritual response it garnered; the sacrificial specialism of individual diviners, specifically through the story of a woman named Martha; and, finally, the construction of prophetic dreaming in the Roman Republic. Although the chapters in this thesis advance different arguments, taken as a whole they enhance the understanding of the relationship between gender and divination in the Roman world. Roman women – and men – succeeded in being able to construct a performative identity within a diverse body of divinatory traditions, enabling them to communicate with the supernatural and assert a distinctive relationship with it.
Description: Ph. D. Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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