Abstract

Statius makes moral agency a pervasive feature of female lamentation in the Thebaid. This contrasts starkly with the preceding epic tradition. Taking a strong stance against the ethical discourse on the emotion of grief reflected in this tradition, Statius reasserts the social value of the emotion of grief and its ritual performance. The madness which makes women’s laments ambivalent is a catalyst enabling them to transgress the limits which would normally restrict their agency. This agency is developed in a vacuum of male values. Making the battle for lamentation the subject of his poem, Statius proposes to us a utopian female alternative to the male dominated epic genre.

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