Leah J. Whittington F'10

Leah J. Whittington
John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities
Harvard University

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2010
Doctoral Candidate
Comparative Literature
Princeton University
The Rhetoric and Ethics of Supplication from Vergil to Milton

This dissertation approaches the interaction of rhetoric, ethics, and politics in Early Modern literature through the reception of classical scenes of supplication in Renaissance authors from Petrarch to Milton. Scenes of supplication like those in Homer and Vergil provide occasions for Early Modern readers to consider the questions of pity, clemency, and forgiveness, which were integral to the political and religious upheavals of the Reformation. Renaissance authors use the structure of classical supplication scenes to articulate ideas about the relationship between people and their government, the role of emotion in judgment, the place of mercy in justice, and the dynamic interaction between the reader and the writer of a text.