Siobhan McElduff

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Associate Professor

Research Classification

Literary or Artistic Work Analysis
Philosophy, History and Comparative Studies
Popular Cultures Produced and Broadcasted by Media

Research Interests

Translation History (pre-modern)
Translation and gesture
Cheap literature and classical reception
Book history (18th, 19th centuries)

Relevant Degree Programs


Graduate Student Supervision

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Decoding Senecan innovation to tragic genre tropes through anagrams, the failure of passion-restraint, and a broken play (2015)

This thesis shows how changes to conventional tragic structure and stories—like the number of acts, the victor of the passion-restraint scene, or the characters’ foreknowledge about future actions in the play—affects the play’s content, influence outcomes, and shape characters’ worldviews. In Hercules Furens, I examine how the Caesars’ darling hero Hercules manages to upset the tragic plot in two ways: by failing to properly express his motivations for falling into madness (in other plays explained explicitly by god characters) and failing to die honorably in just self-punishment. The play profiles a hero with divine lineage, whose power is suddenly rendered questionable by a coup in Thebes, and a town full of people who are similarly skeptical about the extent of their hero’s powers. Phaedra, in contrast, turns the lens away from the deeds of the hero and to the collateral damage wrought against the family in the process. The dissolution of the house of Theseus and the transmogrification of Phaedra into an incestuous, adulterous mother, are prompted by the Nurse’s hyperconscious remarks about the barriers to bad behavior. The Nurse ultimately undermines her own advice and instructs Phaedra on how to get away with crimes without being held morally accountable. Phoenissae’s multiple stylistic idiosyncrasies signal a unified artistic vision that Tarrant implies is diluted through the process of adaptation in the other Senecan tragedies. In this play, characters’ heightened knowledge about their future allows them to formulate advice for their children with a high degree of ironic self-referentiality. The conclusions reached by the two parents, Jocasta and Oedipus, of children at war contrasts violently with one another, although they agree on the fundamental truths of the tragic blueprint for their lives.What unites the three plays discussed throughout this thesis is the heightened level of consciousness that characters have about their own stories and the dramatic tropes of telling their story, and further, the ultimately skeptical conclusions that are implied by these unifying principles: the failure of reason to contain passion, the impotence of the world-conqueror, the tragic inevitability of fratricidal war.

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Ex Manubiis: Literary Representations of Flavian Spectacle (2015)

The Roman emperor Vespasian was declared emperor in absentia at the end of 69 CE, the Year of the Four Emperors; he was the first man from outside the Julio-Claudian family to hold imperial power for more than a few months, remaining in power until his death in 79 CE and succeeded by his son Titus. Vespasian won the conflict with military force, but once in power he faced the unique challenge of demonstrating the legitimacy of his reign without the pedigree of an old Roman family name to draw upon, and so he relied on other means of stabilizing his power. Vespasian returned to Rome bearing an influx of wealth from the Judaean War, and he funded lavish spectacles and buildings like the Colosseum from the spoils (ex manubiis). Vespasian’s buildings and spectacles were impressive displays of his wealth and generosity to the people of Rome, but spectacles can only awe and impress the immediately present audience in Rome for the short time that they last; the Colosseum stays standing as a reminder, but it is inert without its shows. Written descriptions of the spectacle, on the other hand, could travel widely and cheaply, extending the reach of Vespasian’s grand displays through time and space. This thesis is concerned with two such pieces of writing: Josephus’ description in Bellum Judaicum of Vespasian and Titus’ double triumph in 71 CE; and Martial’s Liber Spectaculorum, a collection of epigrams about the inaugural games of the Colosseum in 80 CE. I argue that these literary representations of spectacle effectively reproduced the original spectacles for the reading audience through a variety of rhetorical and literary techniques, ultimately presenting an affirmative view of Flavian rule over the Roman empire, and Roman rule over the world.

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Laceratio Famae: Invective as facework in Cicero's In Pisonem. (2013)

No abstract available.

Summa absolutaque naturae rerum contemplatio: A close study of Pliny the Elder's Naturaliz Historia 37. (2013)

The focus of modern scholarship on Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia tends towards two primary goals: the placement of the work and the author within the cultural context of late 1st century CE Rome and, secondly, the acknowledgement of the purposeful and designed nature of Pliny’s text. Following this trend, the purpose of this study is to approach Book 37, in which Pliny lists and categorizes the gems of the world, as a deliberatly structure text that is informed by its cultural context.The methodology for this project involved careful readings of the book, with special attention paid to the patterns hidden under the surface of Pliny’s occasionally convoluted prose; particular interest was paid to structural patterns and linguistic choices that reveal hierarchies. Of particular concern were several areas that appealed to the most prominent areas of concern in the book: the structure and form of the book; the colour terminology by which Pliny himself categorizes the gems; the identification of gems as objects of mirabilia and luxuria; and the identification of gems as objects of magia and medicina. These topics are all iterations of the basic question of whether gems represent to Pliny positive growth on the part of the Roman Empire, or detrimental decline. The results show the text is deliberately written and structured according to a contradictory narrative that defines gems as both beneficial and detrimental, agents of cure and contamination, expressions of expansion and decline. Pliny’s final purpose in Book 37, then, is to acknowledge gems as the embodiment of diuina Natura and to describe their usefulness to humankind, while simultaneously cautioning the Roman audience against the corruption and destructive power of the outside world.

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