UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A purposeful infection : lovesickness and gender in Heliodorus Simpson, Breanna E. M.


This thesis is the first to undertake a detailed examination of lovesickness within Heliodorus’ Aethiopika. The ancient Greek novels share a central narrative pattern of a young, beautiful, heterosexual couple falling in love, then surviving a series of adventures, kidnappings, and separations, before ending in their reunion and marriage. This pattern is enhanced by the presence of lovesickness, which is identified as a medical ailment which afflicts many individuals within the novels. Building on the work of David Konstan, Katharine Haynes, and Peter Toohey regarding the nature of lovesickness, gender, and desire in the novels, a clear model of lovesickness emerges. This affliction is triggered by eye contact, combines physical and psychological symptoms, alters behaviours, and requires a marriage and sexual consummation to be fully resolved. This pattern is uniform across the victims of lovesickness, regardless of their age, gender, social, or ethnic background, or whether their desire is reciprocated or one-sided. Chapter one identifies and tests the proposed model of lovesickness, and chapter two discusses how lovesickness affects men, focusing on how it influences the central male protagonist’s performance of traditionally masculine behaviours like andreia and sophrosyne. The third chapter focuses on how lovesickness affects women, including the role of beauty in triggering lovesickness, and the juxtaposition of reciprocal and one-sided cases of lovesickness in the female characters in the Aethiopika. The fourth and final chapter looks at cases of lovesickness in the novels that fall outside of the central couple, including rival men, frustrated women, and cases of same-sex desire. Drawing on examples from several other Greek novels, this discussion illuminates the importance of the central couple’s romance within the narrative. This thesis concludes that lovesickness serves as a narrative device that privileges the model of a young, beautiful, heterosexual couple over other cases of lovesickness, desire, or love within the ancient Greek novel. Lovesickness is shown to influence constructions of identity and performances of particular gendered behaviours, aiding the central couple in distinguishing themselves from their rivals and antagonists as conforming to desirable norms of cultural, social, and sexual behaviour.

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