Shadi Bartsch

Shadi Bartsch

The Mirror of the Self: Sexuality, Self-Knowledge, and the Gaze in the Early Roman Empire



Reading new meaning from ancient texts, Shadi Bartsch offers original and inspiring insights into the classical world in The Mirror of the Self: Sexuality, Self-Knowledge, and the Gaze in the Early Roman Empire. This fresh interpretation of philosophical works from the ancient world discovers how sight, sex, and self-reflection are portrayed in classical times, when vision was considered to be a tactile sense. The connections between vision, sexuality, and self-knowledge are shown to be important facets of the classical understanding of self.

Tracing the classical understanding of self from Plato to Seneca, The Mirror of the Self begins with a thorough portrayal of how mirrors are depicted in ancient texts as a means to provide introspective self-knowledge for ethical self-improvement, as well as for erotic self-indulgence. The ancients believed that sight involved transmitting and receiving physical particles, with corresponding emotive and sexual connotations. Sight was considered to be a tactile sense to the extent that the gaze of a lover becomes equivalent to an agreeable sexual act.

This fresh interpretation of classical Greek and Roman texts demonstrates how the perception of vision as both a tactile sense and an ethical tool was understood in widely divergent cultural contexts by Greek and Roman philosophers. This exceptional book culminates in a profoundly original reading of Medea, revealing how Seneca portrays the Roman view of self as a philosophical manifestation that is outwardly demonstrated through the performance of virtue in a Stoic quest for self-knowledge.

With the classical understanding of vision considered to be both an ethical tool and a tactile sense, The Mirror of the Self demonstrates how vision relates to the philosophy of self-perception in a meticulously researched and scholarly interpretation of literary theory, philosophy, and social history. Bartsch guides readers through stories of lustful Stoics, moral hypocrisy, and divided selves, which clearly define how people in antiquity were affected by their own self-perception and how these perceptions were influenced by values of the communities in which they lived.

Erotikon sprang from a three day symposium organized in 2001 to debate the full meaning of eros in both a classical and modern context. The symposium was attended by respected scholars representing a broad range of intellectual interests and joined by poets and novelists to bring fresh insights to a literary field that often defies convenient definitions.

The results of the Erotikon Symposium have been compiled and edited by Shadi Bartsch and Thomas Bartscherer into this volume of essays on Eros, Ancient and Modern. The collection includes essays by 25 contributors, with the book introduction and an essay the topic of Eros and the Roman Philosopher written by Shadi Bartsch.

While each of these essays is focussed on a specific topic of discussion, together they form an expansive conversation to discover what unifies the erotic manifold. Comparisons of literature and art in ancient and modern times illustrate the significant influence of eros throughout the creative arts in western culture. This exchange of ideas is influenced by many intrinsic concepts for deriving a contemporary definition of eros.

As a classical historian, Bartsch's scholarship is primarily devoted to Roman literature and culture of the early imperial period. She is chair of the Department of Classics and a professor in the Committees on the History of Culture and on the Ancient Mediterranean World at the University of Chicago, and is the author of a number of books relating to Roman literature, including Ideology in Cold Blood, Actors in the Audience, and Decoding the Ancient Novel.

In Ideology in Cold Blood : A Reading of Lucan's Civil War, Shadi Bartsch offers new interpretations of the epic poem by Lucan about the civil wars which brought about an end of the Roman republic. Writing during the tyrannical rule of Emperor Nero, Lucan's account of the downfall of the republic portrays his hero Pompey in an ambiguous light, amidst the carnage and destruction that reigned throughout the entire Roman world. Fascinated by the grotesque destruction of human lives, Lucan's poem draws heavily on the violence and nihilism of the conflict, often overshadowing the tragedy and heroism of its characters.

Written with a style that is both shrewd and lively, Ideology in Cold Blood answers the question whether Lucan reflects ideological poetry at its most flagrant or a despairing proclamation of the meaninglessness of ideology. Bartsch places the paradoxes of Lucan in the context of recent political thought, literary theory, and ancient sources. She contributes to our understanding of poetry as a means of political expression by finding in Lucan's epic the redemptive power of storytelling set against the irony of a universally perceived need for political ideology vying paradoxically with universal suspicions of those same ideologies.

In Actors in the Audience: Theatricality and Doublespeak from Nero to Hadrian, Shadi Bartsch examines references in classical Roman literature to the relationship between the populous and emperors during their public appearances at the theatre and games. During the period beginning with the reign of Nero and continuing through the reign of Hadrian, many changes took place in the interaction between the emperors and the audiences attending these events. Drawing upon dramatic works and literature published during this period, Bartsch documents this changing relationship as portrayed in the original source material, and sheds new light on how the literature of the early imperial period was shaped by the suppression of republican freedoms.

Decoding the Ancient Novel: The Reader and the Role of Description in Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius takes the perspective of the reader while interpreting the ancient Greek novels of Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius, two of the most sophisticated of the ancient Greek romances. Shadi Bartsch reconsiders the detailed descriptive accounts in these novels and concludes that these passages are crucial literary devices which first arouse and then undermine the expectations of the reader. Originally interpreted as ornamental literary devices, these descriptive passages are shown to presage a deeper meaning in both works, with their respective authors luring readers into a trap and then contradicting their anticipation of the course that the stories should follow. This interpretation of the way this ancient literary convention was manipulated in these novels offers a new view of the genre itself.

Shadi Bartsch has also written numerous review articles and is co-editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, which encapsulates a wide range of cultures and academic fields. She is also the editor for The Cambridge Companion to Classical Rhetoric, designed to make classical literature and philosophy accessible a general audience.

From (USA):

The Mirror of the Self: Sexuality, Self-Knowledge, and the Gaze in the Early Roman Empire

Erotikon : Essays on Eros, Ancient and Modern

Ideology in Cold Blood : A Reading of Lucan's Civil War (Revealing Antiquity)

Also by Shadi Bartsch:

Actors in the Audience : Theatricality and Doublespeak from Nero to Hadrian

Decoding the Ancient Novel : The Reader and the Role of Description in Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius

Seneca and the Self, edited by Shadi Bartsch and David Wray

Kindle eBook Editions:

Ideology in Cold Blood: A Reading of Lucan's Civil War