Aspects of Transgression in Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica

Scott, Beverley
Aspects of Transgression in Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

[img] PDF
scottbev_sept2013_10035.pdf - Author Accepted Manuscript
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives.

Download (1MB)


In a literary era seemingly obsessed with transgression, Valerius’ own interest in the theme should come as no surprise. For the Romans, the Argo was the first ship in existence; thus the entire Argonautic enterprise is underpinned with transgression. This study sets out to interrogate the complex ways in which Valerius engages with transgression, offering new readings of his Argonautica in the process. He presents a world where expected boundaries are tested, or entirely collapsed, and where the characters and the narrator, grasping for something familiar upon which to hold, are left wanting. This thesis focuses on three major areas of enquiry, all fruitful in making useful conclusions when thinking about transgression in Valerius Flaccus. Firstly, the location of Jason and Medea’s wedding on the island of Peuce is examined, a seemingly insignificant departure from Apollonius Rhodius’ narrative. In fact, a number of transgressive issues are conflated at the point at which their marriage begins, enhancing the sense of unease at the union. The second section springs from the transgressive nature of Peuce’s landscape itself, in that caves, whilst suitable for weddings and sometimes the site of rapes, are often the home of monsters. Monsters pervade the text, appearing at familiar junctures (such as the Harpies, Amycus, and the sown men), but also at unexpected moments, where, for example, gods display monstrous characteristics. The ocular activity of ‘real’ monsters is shown to foreshadow the same curious phenomenon in Medea herself. She is revealed to be a potently transgressive character, and in assuming the hybrid role of character in the work and Muse, she is able to step out of the poem into a position of narrative control. The final section considers the technological aspects of Valerius’ poem against a background of science fiction receptions of the Argonautic myth, all of which are particularly concerned with exploring ideas of technological advance. Modern science fiction writers such as H. G. Wells and Robert J. Sawyer ‘use’ Argonautic themes, imagery and motifs in their work to routinely explore the hazards of progress. These modern receptions allow us to revisit the ancient material Valerius’ Argonautica, and to see that a world without boundaries is not a consequence-free world, since the far-reaching ramifications of technological advance are brought sharply into focus when read through the ‘lens’ of science fiction. The Argonautica, a poem rich in transgressive themes, is a work which poses more questions than it answers. In that final quality, the significance and potency of its transgression is revealed.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2012-09 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Latin, transgression, Valerius, Flaccus, Flavian, epic, poem, Roman, Argonautica, Argo
Subjects: ?? PN ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2013 10:31
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:38
DOI: 10.17638/00010035
  • Gibson, BJ
  • Paul, JM
  • Harrison, TEH