Seneca’s Challenge: Genre and Intertextuality in Senecan Tragedy and Statius’ Thebaid

Marco van der Schuur

    Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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    Abstract

    In this dissertation I study the intertextual relationship between the poetic genres of epic and tragedy in Latin literature. The focus of my research are Seneca’s tragedies and Statius’ Thebaid. I argue that Seneca’s tragedies should be read as a systematic reflection on the epics of his predecessors Vergil (Aeneid) and Ovid (Metamorphoses). In the Aeneid, Vergil frequently alludes to tragedy, a genre in which heroes and cities often are destroyed, thereby questioning and complicating his epic narrative of Rome’s glorious destiny. Ovid develops this approach further through clever allusions to Vergil. Ovid’s allusions to Vergil can be read as a commentary on Vergil’s epic. Seneca, in turn, would write tragedies that alluded to both Vergil and Ovid. Seneca’s tragedies test the epic genre to its breaking point: heroes self-destruct, history is reversed and the epic gods are driven away. I show this through a close intertextual reading of four of Seneca’s tragedies (Hercules Furens, Oedipus, Thyestes and Phoenissae), in which I trace a development from the “early” to the “late” tragedies. I then move on to the most sustained epic reponse to Seneca’s tragic challenge: Statius’ Thebaid. Statius has to reinvent the epic genre following Senecan tragedy. I argue that a Senecan narrative can be traced through the Thebaid, in which Statius alludes to Senecan tragedy and comments on these tragedies and their impact on epic. At the end of Statius’ experiment, epic can continue, but it is forever changed by Senecan tragedy.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Groningen
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Nauta, Ruurd, Supervisor
    • Harder, Annette, Supervisor
    • van Dam, H.J., Co-supervisor, External person
    Award date29-Nov-2021
    Place of Publication[Groningen]
    Publisher
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2021

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