Hannah Sorscher receives the honorable mention for Best Pre-PhD Paper Award of the Women’s Classical Caucus, for her paper “Wife-Erasure in Terence’s Hecyra,” presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies.
“Wife-Erasure in Terence’s Hecyra.”
This paper identifies a previously unnoticed philological pattern in Terence’s Hecyra by which the main character, Pamphilus, removes his wife Philumena from his language after he decides to divorce her, as she has suffered a rape and become pregnant. After he chooses to leave her, his references to her by name or relationship decrease dramatically and instead he identifies her by pronouns or feminine word-endings. His language also aligns her with her natal family instead of with himself: e.g., he calls her “her mother’s daughter” rather than “my wife.” Even once Pamphilus learns, at the end of the play, that the baby is his and they will stay married, these speech patterns continue. By not reinstating Philumena into his language, Terence creates discomfort and doubt about her future happiness with her husband. Her lexical erasure throughout the play provides philological corroboration of Pamphilus’ selfishness and his uncaring attitude towards his wife, and heightens the sense of unease that hangs over the play’s superficially happy ending.