My research focuses on Latin literature and Roman literary culture. I am interested in the ways that authors involve readers in their texts through, for instance, inviting them to perform them, edit them, interpret them, or re-use them in their own works. I am also interested in the way that culture impacts the experience of reading both in ancient societies and today.
My monograph in progress is a literary analysis of Seneca the Younger’s extended monologues in persona in his philosophical prose. While some scholars treat Senecan philosophy as objective propositions, I interpret it as a series of interrelated performances, which illustrate and engage the reader in physical-moral transformation through their recitation of the text. Seneca, I argue, takes on the role of the Stoic pneuma, the divine breath that pervades the Stoic cosmos, as if he were “breathing” through the voices of his characters so that they become indistinguishable and, at the same time, evokes the immanence of pneuma within his voice and those he imitates through speech (logos), an exhalation of breath (spiritus). Given the Stoic belief that the voice is part of the material soul and the fact that Romans commonly read aloud, I contend that the interplay of literary voices evokes the transformation of his readers’ material souls as they recite his texts. By mirroring his readers’ transformation within the text they are reading, Seneca guides them to identify with the immanent Stoic pneuma/logos and disregard other markers of identity, such as their social status, wealth, age, gender, etc.
The American Journal of Philology will publish an article related to this research titled “Reading as Training: Seneca’s Didactic Technique in De Beneficiis” in 2020.