Metadrama in the chorus : the first choral ode of Seneca's Oedipus
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The main topic of this dissertation is the first choral ode of Seneca's Oedipus. Seneca's handling of the choral parts has often suffered from negative criticism, mainly due to the fact that often, at first glance, the interventions of the chorus seem to not be an integral part of the play. For this reason, Seneca's choral odes have often been considered a mere display of the poets' rhetorical abilities, frequently dismissed as lyrical evasions, and occasionally even charged with being at odds with the context in which they are inserted. These types of assessments have been conducive to negative evaluations of Seneca's handling of the chorus, and of his dramatic competence, and have often been used to support the argument that Seneca's tragedies were not intended to be staged. My analysis shows that Seneca's variation of the poetic sources is never meaningless for the dramatic context, and argues that the chorus is an integral part of the play, one that is essential to fully understand and appreciate Seneca's dramatic art. By combining an intertextual approach and verbal analysis, I show that omissions, additions, and variations lead the audience to see the first ode as a symbolic account of Oedipus' destiny, one that prefigures the ways in which the tragic narrative is about to develop, and that prepares the audience to recognize the ways in which Seneca's poetic rewriting of Oedipus' myth is going to be original. The ode, in fact, displays the presence of a language that is highly ambiguous and multireferential, and that draws on the technical language of literary criticism and of programmatic statements of poetics. This language permits the audience to detect a meta-dramatic level of communication in the ode, one where Oedipus is characterized as a surrogate of the tragic poet. The final chapter provides evidence of the fact that all of the remaining odes display the same polysemous language that continues to sustain a meta-dramatic level of significance. My study shows that a recognition of metadrama in the odes is important in several ways. It increases the tragic irony. It complicates traditional notions of tragic fate, thereby providing an explanation for the apparent discrepancy between Seneca the Philosopher and Seneca the Tragedian that does not see the tragedies as the result of Seneca's retraction of his Stoic ideas. It offers an insight into Seneca's tragic poetics, while pointing to a possible reconciliation between Callimachean artistic skill and Bacchic inspiration. Finally, it points to a particular type of expected audience, one that is rational, literarily well-educated, and hence able to recognize all of the subtleties of the poets' sophisticated poetic enterprise.
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