Studies about Senecan Tragedy

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Tragedies written by the Ancient Roman dramatist Seneca?[1] have a privileged place in the history of European literature, because they represent a kind of turning point between the classic Athenian theater and the modern theater. His plays, especially his philosophical writings, are widely spread during the middle Ages. However, Senecan drama recovered its value since the XIV century and also began to be transmitted with many copies and translations, which would later be literary sources from the Renaissance to the XVIII century. These days, in different genres, mainly in television serials, we can also find many of the resources used by Senecan dramaturgy, which were developed in European drama too. These resources are, for example, long melodramatic monologues, declamatory and rhetorical style, scenes with a hero who feels pity for himself, etc. That is why George Uscatescu, in his study about western drama, names his chapter about the Roman writer “Seneca, present dramatic author”. This expression refers to his influence in the formation of national English, French, Spanish and Italian theaters and shows his contemporary style.

The number of studies about Senecan drama have increased in the last decades and developed new and revisionist points of view. Until the middle of the XX century criticism was hard with the Roman author and with Latin literature in general, they thought that his tragedies were ‘unrepresentable’. In Gian Biagio Conte’s words, this criticism suffered from ‘comparisonitis’, that is, the comparison between Greek and Roman literature, in which the second is presented as a copy of the first, established as the model. The problem with these methodologies is that they employ categories which are not appropriate to their object of analysis. The supposed Senecan faults are, on the contrary, aspects which constitute and construct his aesthetics, and, to follow the Aesthetics of Reception, Senecan aesthetics responds to a new horizon of expectations.

Call for contributions

Set education free by contributing to Studies about Senecan Tragedy. Create a space where you can work by entering a title that is not already on the list below. Among other things, you can help Wikiversity sort out whether this is about the works of Seneca the Elder or Seneca the Younger.

List of contributions


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  • Boyle, A.J., Tragic Seneca. An essay in the theatrical tradition, London and New York, Routledge, 1997.
  • Conte, Gian Biagio, The Retoric of Imitation. Genre and Poetic Memory in Virgil and Other Latin Poets, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press, 1986.
  • Dupont, Florence, Les monstres de Sénèque. Pour une dramaturgie de la tragédie romaine, París, Editions Belin, 1995.
  • Feeney, D. C., Literature and Religion at Rome: Cultures, Contexts and Beliefs, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Habinek, T., “Grecian Wonders and Roman Woe: the Romantic Rejection of Rome and its Consequences for the Study of Latin Literature”, en: Galinsky, Karl (ed.). The interpretation of Roman Poetry: Empiricism or Hermeneucs? (Studien Zur Klasichen Philologie, Band 67), Peter Lang, Frankfurt, 1992:227-242.
  • Rist, J.M., La filosofía estoica, Barcelona, Crítica, 1995 (1ª edición 1969, Cambridge).
  • Rosenmeyer, Thomas G., Senecan drama and Stoic Cosmology, University of California Press, 1989.
  • Uscatescu, George. Teatro Occidental Contemporáneo. Madrid, Guadarrama, 1968, 165-202.
  • Veyne, Paul, Séneca y el estoicismo, México, FCE, 1995.
  1. This might be a misprint: it was w:Seneca the Younger who wrote the tragedies.