Spartacus in the Television Arena

Essays on the Starz Series


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About the Book

Spartacus, the Thracian gladiator turned rebel leader, endures as a near-mythic hero who fought for the oppressed against a Roman oligarchy built on the backs of slave labor. The image of Spartacus as a noble if doomed avenger is familiar and his story has been retold through history as a cautionary tale about social injustice.  The television series Spartacus takes a different view, with a violent depiction of the man and his times and a focus on the archetype of the gladiator—powerful, courageous and righteous. This collection of new essays studies the series as an exploration of masculinity. In the world of Spartacus, men jockey for social position, question the nature of their lives, examine their relationships with women and with each other, and explore their roles in society and the universe. The series also offers a compelling study of the composite nature of historical narrative in television and film, where key facts from original sources are interwoven with period embellishments, presenting audiences with a history and a fiction whose lines remain blurred by a distant yet all-too-familiar past.

About the Author(s)

Michael G. Cornelius is a professor of English and director of the Master’s of Humanities program at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He is an award-winning novelist and the author or editor of numerous scholarly works.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Michael G. Cornelius

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 220
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9801-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2030-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vi
Introduction: Blood, Sand and Men (Michael G. Cornelius)  1

Arenas of Memory: Spartacus and the Remediation of Historical Narratives (Dragoş Manea)  27
“It is for history to decide”: The Story Space of the Spartacus Series (James Klima)  46
The Sound World of Spartacus: Representations of Ancient Musical Instruments in the Series (Lorenzo Sorbo)  63
Single Combat, the Semiotics of the Arena and Martial Intimacy (Larry T. Shillock)  77
Spartacus’ Entrapment in the Underworld in Blood and Sand (Rachel S. McCoppin)  97
Blood, Sex, Sand and Mills: The Sociological Imagination Between Gladiators (Jason Smith)  118
Spartacus and the Shifting Sands of Sacred Space (Michael G. Cornelius)  130
The Predators of Capua: Spartacus and the Limits of the Human (Ariel Gómez Ponce)  152
(Re)Presenting the Phallus: Gladiators and Their “Swords” (Robert K. Dickson and Michael G. Cornelius)  170
Queer Heroes and Action Heroines: Gender and Sexuality in Spartacus (Anna Foka)  186

About the Contributors  207
Index  209

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Provides 11 original essays on the 2010–2013 Starz cable network series. The focus is on a gladiator who leads a rebellion against Rome in 73 to 71 BCE…assess[es] the characters and story lines from a variety of points of view”—Communication Booknotes Quarterly
  • “Explores the topic of masculinity in Spartacus…also addresses is the complex relationship between fiction and history in television narrative”—ProtoView