Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Fredrika Jacobs


This thesis explores Cleopatra as presented in the work of three nineteenth century American sculptors: Thomas Ridgeway Gould, Edmonia Lewis and William Wetmore Story. It illuminates their work in the context of the nineteenth century and within the history of Cleopatra's image. Victorian opinions of Cleopatra's nature are exposed by examining the Egyptian Queen in essays and literature of the period, including works by Anna Jameson, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Bronte, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Theophile Gautier. By studying the role of Cleopatra in these literary examples, the notion of some recent scholars of Cleopatra as a feminist symbol is dispelled and a light shed on a deeper interpretation. Cleopatra's ethnicity is taken into consideration against the political climate of the United States before and after the Civil War. Eroticization of the female body through an association with the Orient is examined against the contemporaneous American Suffrage movement. The role that complexion and hair coloring has sometimes played in the temperament of female heroines is explored through the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Hawthorne and Gautier, as is the female "sexual monster" returned from the grave in the work of Bram Stoker and Poe. Strong willed women and their tendency towards "indirect suicide" is investigated through the writing of Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin and Henry James. These diverse factors and events are taken into account in order to reveal the significance of Cleopatra and her legendary sexuality and suicide to the Victorian artist and audience.


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