Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Humanities

First Advisor

Dr. Annjeanette Wiese

Second Advisor

Dr. Elspeth Dusinberre

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Gordon

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Abstract

This thesis traces the continuity of rhetoric concerning empire from ancient Greece, to Rome, and to Victorian Britain. Through examining theory, literature, and visual arts, this thesis will unpack both ancient and Victorian forms of representation and rhetoric. It charts the development of these forms of representation across centuries, exposing a persistence of thought and ultimately arguing for the force of this rhetorical tradition for defining societal status and bolstering imperial power. The thesis is divided into two main areas of focus: The Creation of the Other and Myth. The Creation of the Other section examines literature to demonstrate how Greek, Roman, and British thinkers created an image of the Other, defined themselves in relation to the Other and in relation to the past. It then examines how the respective societies, especially Rome and Britain, used this view of themselves to bolster their superiority and support their political hegemony. Following this section is an examination of the power of myth to structure a human understanding of the world, formulate social institutions, and structure reality. Within this section, the thesis deconstructs the Augustan imperial myth, looking at how Rome harkened to a glorious mythological past and revived Classical Greek artistic conventions in its art and architecture in order to imbue its empire with glory and grandeur. From this Roman focus, the thesis moves to show how Britain pulled from classical antiquity to create its own imperial myth. The two sections—the Creation of the Other and Myth—work jointly to argue that classical forms of thought and art have long been tied to perceptions of empire, becoming wed to notions of power. Starting with the formation of this classical verbal and visual rhetoric in ancient Greece, then charting its development in Rome and its later intentional employment in Britain, I argue that the classical tradition has given shape to nations, empires, and entire frames of thought, making it a formidable instrument of power.

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