LAT f385 • The Fate of the Rape of Lucretia
8:30 AM-11:30 AM
3-week seminar. June 9-27. Lucretia's legend seems simple enough at first glance: The noble matron's rape, by Sextus Tarquinius, and her subsequent suicide, led Lucius Junius Brutus to eject the Tarquins, thus bringing down the Roman monarchy and instituting the Republic. Lucretia is thus a proper icon of New Roman thought: women's chastity and proper subordination, Tarquin little more than the embodiment of royal evil, and Brutus the heroic liberator and founder. But subsequent analyses, revisions, and reworkings of the story reveal and create a variety of tensions, and the icons crack. Lucretia's suicide, to Augustine, is an admission of guilt. Junius's sudden spring into patriotica action can become a symptom of the ignoble rashness that will lead him to sacrifice his sons. And down the centuries the story rolls, exemplifying differences in psychology, social values, and poltical advocacy that startle even the jaded reader.
This course will begin with the earliest versions of the legend and some parallels: Livy and Ovid, and other authors, Roman and nonRoman. We shall then move to the most influential Christian interpreter, Augustine, and proceed up the years through the Middle Ages into the Renaissance-The Italian Renaissance, at least. First to Colluccio Salutati in Florence for his rhetorical skyrocket, the Declamatio Lucretiae, where a matron's sullied purity serves as example of the corruption of antiquity to be set right by those new Junii, the classical scholars. Our most surprising stop will be Machiavelli's great and scabrous comedy, Mandragola-the grim tale twisted into deception run riot in the successful corruption of a marriage, with the attendant political theory. We shall confront as many Lucretioids as we can. Plays English and French, Restoration and modern. Benjamin Britten's opera may be the most nearly contemporary of these, but we'll keep trying.
Latin texts, including Livy, Ovid, Augustine, the Gesta Romanorum, and Salutati's Declamatio will be read in the original. Everything else in English. Course Packet