Aberration and criminality in Senecan tragedy
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This thesis tackles the pervasiveness of aberration in Senecan tragedy. Aberration infects all aspects of the drama, and it is deeply entwined with Senecan criminality. In my introduction, I define my terminology of the aberrant, and I discuss a series of ongoing scholarly debates on the tragedies, showing how understanding the aberrant in Seneca’s dramas can shed new light on these questions. In Chapter 1, I examine the relationship between the language of crime in the plays, tracing the Latin words for crime back to their instances in Republican Roman tragedy and other genres and seeing how Seneca uses and develops this language of crime, creating an unstable fuel for his dramas. In Chapter 2, I consider Seneca’s paradoxes. I consider not only verbal manifestations but all the different paradoxes that appear in the dramas: visual paradoxes, paradoxes of infinity, thematic paradoxes, intertextual paradoxes and more. Paradox is not merely a formal feature of Seneca’s writing but integral to the structure of each play. Paradox becomes Seneca’s means of transforming linguistic aberration into thematic aberration. In Chapter 3, I argue that Senecan landscapes are not just verbal artefacts. Seneca describes his anomalous spaces in ways that connect with how space and place was experienced in Roman culture. Seneca’s aberrant spaces give us buildings that are bigger on the inside than the outside and bodies that explode with the emotions within them. In Chapter 4, I probe aberrant behaviour, by considering the ambiguous characters of Hercules and Thyestes. I expand our focus to incorporate Roman notions of appropriate behaviour, reading the dramas and De Beneficiis as reflecting wider socio-cultural concerns, and I question common assumptions about the thematization of theatricality in Senecan tragedy. In both Hercules Furens and Thyestes, crime skews and twists the situation, rendering apparently ethical behaviour aberrant.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-11-06
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 6th November 2023
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