Event Title

Use as Directed: Women’s Roles in Petronius’ Satyricon

Graduation Year

2013

Location

Room E105, Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Start Date

20-4-2013 11:00 AM

End Date

20-4-2013 12:00 PM

Description

Petronius’ Satyricon, likely intended for Nero’s court in the late first century AD, has long been studied to understand the roles and interaction of freedmen in ancient Rome. There are, however far fewer attempts to study the way Petronius uses women in the novel. In analyzing the women in the novel in terms of Judith Butler’s ideas that sex and gender are constructs and that sexual identity is performative, it becomes evident that Petronius constructs women’s personalities differently in the Cena Trimalchionis than in the rest of the novel to provide a commentary about the way women actually behaved and the actions of the ideal woman. Comparing Petronius’ portrayal of women in the majority of the novel to the freedmen’s wives, Fortunata and Scintilla, in the Cena Trimalchionis demonstrates that the novel satirizes women in order to show the expected behavior for a proper Roman wife. The women in the Cena, whose actions are more in line with those of the ideal Roman woman, are viewed as part of a theatrical performance, while the women outside of the Cena, described as more promiscuous, do not act under the same type of direction. Petronius’ text, then, can be interpreted in line with Butler’s views; that is, the women in the Satyricon show that expected gender roles, in ancient Rome, were culturally constructed and performed rather than innate, and the ideal wife must follow the specific direction of her husband’s household rather than choosing for herself how to behave.

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Apr 20th, 11:00 AM Apr 20th, 12:00 PM

Use as Directed: Women’s Roles in Petronius’ Satyricon

Room E105, Center for Natural Sciences, Illinois Wesleyan University

Petronius’ Satyricon, likely intended for Nero’s court in the late first century AD, has long been studied to understand the roles and interaction of freedmen in ancient Rome. There are, however far fewer attempts to study the way Petronius uses women in the novel. In analyzing the women in the novel in terms of Judith Butler’s ideas that sex and gender are constructs and that sexual identity is performative, it becomes evident that Petronius constructs women’s personalities differently in the Cena Trimalchionis than in the rest of the novel to provide a commentary about the way women actually behaved and the actions of the ideal woman. Comparing Petronius’ portrayal of women in the majority of the novel to the freedmen’s wives, Fortunata and Scintilla, in the Cena Trimalchionis demonstrates that the novel satirizes women in order to show the expected behavior for a proper Roman wife. The women in the Cena, whose actions are more in line with those of the ideal Roman woman, are viewed as part of a theatrical performance, while the women outside of the Cena, described as more promiscuous, do not act under the same type of direction. Petronius’ text, then, can be interpreted in line with Butler’s views; that is, the women in the Satyricon show that expected gender roles, in ancient Rome, were culturally constructed and performed rather than innate, and the ideal wife must follow the specific direction of her husband’s household rather than choosing for herself how to behave.