Anelia Slavoff: Description of Research: Aspasia After Antiquity
From Emily Bush-Clark on April 14th, 2020
Please view the 'Attachment' tab to view the poster in high resolution and leave comments
I first became interested in Aspasia of Miletus during my sophomore year, after I read a piece that referenced her in my Rhetorical Theory course taught by Dr. Kennerly. I was immediately fascinated by the interpretations of her character, and how little information is known about her even though it is believed that she contributed significantly to the field of rhetoric in 5th century BCE Athens. Because of her contributions to rhetoric, and because of the ways in which she defied societal norms, I knew that I wanted to research her further. This interest led to the development of my thesis, with the help of my thesis advisor, Dr. Kennerly.
Through my research, I became increasingly aware of the ways in which authors and artists presented alternative narratives about Aspasia’s character for their own personal motives. She has been depicted in a variety of ways, but these depictions typically fit into two categories: positive depictions that describe Aspasia as a rhetorician and equal partner to Pericles, and negative depictions that portray her as strictly a courtesan and a bad influence on Athenian society. Although these alternative narratives were not new to the 20th century, I decided to specifically analyze this era given the lack of research previously done into references of Aspasia during this time period. After reading through dozens of articles that included references of Aspasia, I was surprised to find no clear chronological pattern in the ways in which she was portrayed. Even in the 21st century, there are still varying portrayals of Aspasia in scholarship.
I hope to continue this research into my graduate studies, because I believe that it is important to acknowledge and interpret the alternative narratives that are assigned to women who have no personal voice preserved in the historical record. None of Aspasia’s written work remains, which has led to varying interpretations of her character and claims of her support for ideologies that might not have aligned with her beliefs at all. I am fascinated by the portrayals that I have found so far, and I look forward to researching this topic further.