Queens of Antiquity
This course will examine representations of female monarchs from the Classical to the Neo-classical periods, focusing primarily on British literature. Female rule has often been viewed as a threat to the stability of male-dominated governance, but it has also opened up the possibility of new forms of leadership and challenged existing social structures. This course will focus on three case studies: Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt; Dido, Queen of Carthage; and Elizabeth I of England. It will investigate the historical traces of their reigns, their representation in classical epic, and revisions of that representation in the Renaissance and Restoration, with some attention to contemporary versions of these figures in film, art, fiction, and poetry. We will consider questions of sexuality, ideas of race, national and indigenous identity, the construction of femininity, and the theory of sovereignty, as well as theatrical history and the nature of epic as a genre.
Texts may include: Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra; Dryden, All for Love; Virgil, the Aeneid; Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies; Marlowe, Dido, Queen of Carthage; Tate and Purcell, Dido and Aeneas; Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam, The Fair Queen of Jewry; Spenser, The Faerie Queen; Nathaniel Lee, The Rival Queens.
Assignments will include critical papers, a short research project, and a collaborative virtual exhibition of representations of female monarchs.