The Fractured Voice: Silence and Power in Imperial Roman Literature, by Assistant Professor of Classics Amy Koenig, was recently published by the University of Wisconsin Press.
According to the publisher’s description of the book, The Fractured Voice explores Imperial Rome’s elevation of the elite male citizen to a place of superiority over women, noncitizens, and nonhumans. Indicators of this superiority were found in the power of his voice – not only by his speaking skills and his capacity to represent himself and others, but also in the political power of having a public voice. Conversely, muteness in ancient Roman society was understood as a physical and social deficiency.
Koenig argues that the understanding of silence in Imperial Roman literature is incomplete and shows that the Roman perception of silence is more complicated than a simple binary. She also shows that “silence could in fact be freeing — that the loss of voice permits an untethering from other social norms and expectations, thus allowing a freedom of expression denied to many of the voiced.”
In an early review of the book, Bartolo Natoli, author of Silenced Voices: The Poetics of Speech in Ovid, said The Fractured Voice pulls “together a dizzying array of materials and concepts from disparate fields,” and is “a transformative study of speech in the ancient world.”
A review by Silence in the Land of Logos author Silvia Montiglio said “Koenig brings a fresh perspective to the understanding of silence in the culture of the Roman empire, showing that loss of voice can unlock new possibilities of expression that allow the mute person to signify facts and feelings otherwise difficult or dangerous to communicate.”