Ravished voices: Epic transformations from Ovid to Hutchinson
Brockman, Sonya Lynne
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Ravished Voices: Epic Transformations from Ovid to Hutchinson examines sexual violence and its problematic relationship with the poetic voice in medieval and early modern English literature. By tracing the fluidity of the epic as a literary genre developing from antiquity to the seventeenth century, this project seeks answers to fundamental questions regarding the intersections of gender, violence, and poetic creation that populate and often shape literature. I consider these intersections not only in terms of gender, but through a critical lens that is influenced by recent work in trauma theory and cultural studies. I argue that a counter-tradition develops alongside the canonical trajectory of the Western epic, a tradition steeped in images of sexual violence against marginalized females. We see an important generic shift as this counter-tradition, which I trace through the works of Ovid, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Hutchinson, gives voice to those marginalized females: as they turn their focus to the private responses of female victims, the poets of this counter-epic tradition provide the foundation for the rise of the novel in the eighteenth century. This project necessarily traces epic transformation in multiple valences, exploring the transformations caused by sexual violence in epic poetry, the ways individual poets transform the epic genre, and ultimately, how issues of violence, voice, and genre converge in an epistemic shift from the public spectacle of epic and tragedy to the polyvocal interiority of narrative.
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