Andromeda Unbound

The Center for Gender Studies and the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies welcome to Radford University's campus Dr. Neville McFerrin of the University of North Texas, who will share a public lecture, "Andromeda Unbound: Re-Thinking Ancient Pompeian Gender in the House of the Dioscuri."

October 10, 2022
6:00 PM
Center for the Sciences M73

N. McFerrin, "Andromeda Unbound" (October 10, 2022)

About Dr. McFerrin

Neville McFerrin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of North Texas.  Her work focuses on intersections between dress, materiality, and embodied perception on the sites of Persepolis and Pompeii and has appeared in multiple journals and edited volumes including, Fashion Studies, The Routledge Handbook on the Senses in the Ancient Near East, and Dress and Mediterranean Antiquity: Greeks, Romans, Jews, Christians.  She is currently producing a book manuscript focused upon depicted dress, materiality, and sensorial interplays at Persepolis.

Summary of Dr. McFerrin's Presentation

Visitors to the House of the Dioscuri (VI.9.6) in Pompeii, quickly find themselves immersed in negotiations of gendered norms.  Mythic warriors in the entryway, at first glance, appear to reinforce narratives of acceptable Roman masculinity, and in the house’s more private areas, storied women seem to conform to their expected roles.  However, as one moves through these spaces, a counter-narrative begins to emerge, one told, not through texts, but through depictions of dressed bodies.  Arguing that sensorial relationships to the body are an essential component of identity construction, this talk utilizes a phenomenological framework to underscore the relationship between the body and the materials of adornment, highlighting the disjunction between viewership and embodied experience to interrogate the plurality of identities that are constructed and reinforced through the utilization of personal ornamentation.

Through this consideration of the relationship between surface, adornment, and boundary in the wall paintings of the House of the Dioscuri, the paper argues for a reconceptualization of gender and gendered power dynamics both in this space, and on the site of Pompeii more broadly. Focusing upon depictions of Castor and Pollux, Achilles, Andromeda, and Medea, together with an exploration of dressed remains from the site and extant dress materials from the site of Pompeii, the presentation argues that by placing figures such as Achilles, Andromeda, and Medea in apposition, the visual program of the House of the Dioscuri invites us to consider the seemingly contradictory nature of their dress practices, thus allowing us to reframe our understanding of normative dress and gender presentation, which are most often dictated by the perspectives of elite male writers of the period late first century BCE and early first century CE.  By framing adornments as tools for interaction, rather than as objects of display, figures such as Andromeda and Medea become social actors undertaking deliberate decisions, thus underscoring the multi-valenced communicative potentials of adornments in order to provide insight into the ways that individuals could utilize adornments not only to reinforce social identities to others, but also for themselves.