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The Empire of the Self

Hardback
, 312 pages
ISBN:
9781421406749
September 2012
$65.00

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The Empire of the Self

Self-Command and Political Speech in Seneca and Petronius

In The Empire of the Self, Christopher Star studies the question of how political reality affects the concepts of body, soul, and self. Star argues that during the early Roman Empire the establishment of autocracy and the development of a universal ideal of individual autonomy were mutually enhancing phenomena. The Stoic ideal of individual empire or complete self-command is a major theme of Seneca’s philosophical works. The problematic consequences of this ideal are explored in Seneca’s dramatic and satirical works, as well as in the novel of his contemporary Petronius.

Star examines the rhetorical links between these diverse texts. He also demonstrates a significant point of contact between two writers generally thought to be antagonists—the idea that imperial speech structures reveal the self.

Christopher Star is an assistant professor of classics at Middlebury College.

"Star's highly original comparison of Seneca and Petronius offers us new vistas on the dynamic relationship between these two authors, not to mention the culture in which they lived and died, promoting and perverting the technologies of self-fashioning available to imperial Romans."

"This [review] can hardly do justice to the scope and richness of Star's argument in each chapter, to the thoroughness with which he discusses his chosen texts, and to the creativity with which he exploits his simultaneous treatments of Seneca and Petronius. This book makes a major contribution to the modern bibliography of selfhood and self-formation in the early empire, and it will doubtless generate further debate in so vibrant an area of study."

"With this book, Star contributes to a growing body of scholarship on the construction of the self in classical antiquity."

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