Portrait of a young woman; fresco, Pompeii.
Portrait of a young woman; fresco, Pompeii.

Thesis Casts New Light on Rome's Forgotten Female Poet

Classics major Lina Neidhardt ’18 wins two prestigious awards for her thesis.

By Katie Pelletier ’03 | May 17, 2018

Congratulations to classics major Lina Neidhardt ’18, who has won both a Class of ’21 Award and the John Gregory Unrue ’84 Memorial Award for her thesis on the Augustan Roman poet, Sulpicia. 

The surviving six or seven elegiac poems of the little-known ancient Roman female poet have been largely dismissed by scholars as difficult, uninteresting, or even “bad.” Some have even wondered whether the poems were really written by a woman.

Lina thought the conventional wisdom was superficial and set out to do something more. For her thesis, “Sulpicia on Her Own Terms,” Lina spent a year looking closely at several of Sulpicia's ancient poems to examine how she constructs a feminine persona in her work. 

In her nomination of Lina for the award, Prof. Jessica Seidman [classics 2013–] notes that Lina “offers a completely new way of understanding the only extant poetry we have that was written by an ancient Roman woman” and commended Lina’s “truly brilliant readings in her thesis.”

“Lina’s approach and her claim are entirely new and have the potential to turn studies of Sulpicia in a completely different direction,” she says. “I had little interest in Sulpicia before reading Lina’s thesis. Now I can’t wait to incorporate her into my Latin courses.”

Lina, who was a spring-fall senior and finished her thesis in December, was “surprised and honored” to learn of her awards. 

The Class of ’21 Award was created by members of the Class of 1921 and is given to a “creative work of notable character, involving an unusual degree of initiative and spontaneity.”

The John Gregory Unrue ’84 Memorial Award, which recognizes outstanding work in a thesis in the Division of Literature and Languages, was created by donors John and Darlene Unrue in 2014 in memory of their son Greg Unrue (1961–2008). Greg received a B.A. in English from Reed in 1984. 

Tags: Academics, Awards & Achievements, Cool Projects, Research, Students, Thesis