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

Marco van der Schuur


    302 Downloads (Pure)


    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.
    Originele taal-2English
    KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
    Toekennende instantie
    • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
    • Nauta, Ruurd, Supervisor
    • Harder, Annette, Supervisor
    • van Dam, H.J., Co-supervisor, Externe Persoon
    Datum van toekenning29-nov.-2021
    Plaats van publicatie[Groningen]
    StatusPublished - 2021

    Citeer dit