Domina Virgin Mater Trix: The Kaleidoscopic Identity of Women by Christel Johnson f. Christel’s book is a copiously researched scholarly study, that shows how stereotypes rearrange themselves like DNA (her metaphor) generating unique literary and real-life heroines.
The title refers to four female stereotypes that have endured over the centuries. After a presentation of structuralist/post structuralist theoretical grounding, based on the work of, among others, Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva, Christel explores how these stereotypical roles play out in classical Greek and Roman literature as well as in the chosen persona of Queen Elizabeth I.
Christel’s analyses of Sophocles’ Antigone or the Greek goddesses or the beloved of Catullus lead back to her central idea -- the women of literature cannot be pinned down to one type. They may assume the power of domina even as virgin maidens or display maternal characteristics even while manipulating men for treasure. (Trix is a short form of meretrix, courtesan, and seems to mean here any woman who manipulates male partners for material gain. )
These female literary characters are, of course, created by male authors; even if they are based on real, living women, they are depicted through a male lens. In the final chapter of the book we find a woman manipulating these types to her own ends; it is an enlightening portrait of the virgin Queen, who chose to rule like a man – domina in the extreme – and to view herself through what came to her from the classics. Sometimes scholarly work can be as exciting as an action film. Christel delves into the inner workings of this powerful ruler by scrutinizing three revelatory portraits. Very clever and –well—thrilling.