Spaces of Becoming: Subjectivity as Encounter in the Thebaid.

Joscelyn Cole

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Statius’ Thebaid is an epic which constantly unsettles the readers’ desire for unity and purpose, instead presenting a bleak, violent, and oftentimes digressive narrative. The Thebaid’s lack of resolution has led to many differing readings of the text, and, despite its rehabilitation within classical scholarship, the epic remains allusive and open to new interpretation. Taking inspiration from the “spatial turn” in the humanities, this thesis undertakes a series of close readings of encounters from throughout the Thebaid in order to reconcile the different rhythms of Statius’ narrative. In particular, this thesis focuses on the concept of the ‘Third Space of enunciation’, that is, the space of intersubjective communication, as posited by Homi Bhabha (1994:37), in order to explore how the spaces between individuals have ramifications for the Thebaid’s landscape, and vice-versa. Centring around three main forms of space: the forest, the battlefield, and the threshold, my analysis suggests that the action of the epic’s narrative takes place predominantly in the in-between spaces, those which elude hegemonic control. In many cases the fluidity of the symbolic economy within such border spaces causes a sense of dislocation and, as individuals attempt to impose meaning in order to orient themselves within their environment, their attempts end in tragedy for themselves and those around them. However, whilst the Thebaid remains an inescapably tragic account of conflict, by approaching simultaneously the physical, mental/psychological and social aspects of the places in Statius’ epic world, we become sensitive to the ways the great “rhythms” of the Thebaid unfold in complex interrelation with its more imperceptible ones, allowing for the co-existence of multiple and often competing rhythms, spaces, identities and even at times, outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Spentzou, Efrossini, Supervisor
Award date1 May 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Statius
  • Thebaid
  • space
  • Subjectivity
  • encounter
  • thirdspace
  • Latin epic
  • Flavian

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