Bodily Integrity and Disability in Roman Literature and Rhetoric: The Case of Emperors, Children and Military Leaders

Helen Tanner (2011). Bodily Integrity and Disability in Roman Literature and Rhetoric: The Case of Emperors, Children and Military Leaders MPhil Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Helen Tanner
Thesis Title Bodily Integrity and Disability in Roman Literature and Rhetoric: The Case of Emperors, Children and Military Leaders
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-08
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Janette McWilliam
Tom Stevenson
Total pages 132
Total colour pages Nil
Total black and white pages 132
Language eng
Subjects 210306 Classical Greek and Roman History
Abstract/Summary Historians of the ancient past, almost without exception, have approached the topic of disability by identifying pathological conditions within the available evidence to gauge perceptions or cultural responses. By framing disability in this way, scholarship in this field has often relied on an implicitly understood medical distinction between bodily ‘normality’ and ‘abnormality.’ Scholars in the emerging field of disability studies have criticised this ‘medical model’ approach for wrongly assuming that such a distinction is objective and enduring, and thus unchanging between cultures and over time. Among scholars of disability, a strong consensus has emerged, proposing instead that physical normality and abnormality is more accurately understood as a socially negotiated distinction based on capacity to perform expected social roles in the community or society. While this ‘social model’ of disability has come to be accepted in other strands of historical inquiry, historians concerned with ancient disability have largely ignored the work of disability studies scholars. This thesis applies this modern theoretical approach to the ancient literary evidence and demonstrates how such a reading enhances our understanding of Roman attitudes towards disability. In light of the preference held by previous scholars to focus upon Greek history and evidence, this thesis has also sought to move the focus more firmly into the Roman period. By examining the bodily capacity of emperors,the rejection of children on the basis of bodily abnormality, and depictions of wounds and wounding among military leaders, this thesis consistently demonstrates that perceptions of bodily normality and abnormality were measured against and determined by considerations of an individual’s capacity to perform socially and culturally determined roles. Although this study is by no means a comprehensive analysis of disability in the Roman world, it nevertheless demonstrates support for a social model approach to disability in this context. This thesis also represents a further step in the liberation of this topic from its isolated position in the modern corpus of historical scholarship, and the forging of a mutually beneficial association between scholars of ancient history and scholars of disability.
Keyword disability
social model
medical model

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Created: Mon, 12 Mar 2012, 13:27:57 EST by Ms Helen Tanner on behalf of Library - Information Access Service