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TRINACTY, C. V.,
Senecan Tragedy and the Reception of Augustan Poetry.
Oxford University Press, 2014. VI,266p. Hardback with dust wrps. 'Senecan Tragedy and the Reception of Augustan Poetry’ is primarily a study of the tragedies of the Latin author Seneca the Younger (4BCE-65CE), although the first chapter also reads some of his moral-philosophical Epistles. It argues that Seneca’s tragic poetics depend on a system of intertextual references to the works of the Augustan poets who were considered canonical by Seneca’s lifetime - in particular, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. (…) Over four chapters, the book demonstrates that the characters, plots, tragic universes, and metapoetic programs of Seneca’s dramas are constructed and developed through quotations from, allusions to, and rewordings - or ‘rebrandings’- of key moments in the Augustan poetic canon. Thus Senecan characters appear to be aware of, and to intervene consciously in, the process of their own literary construction. His Medea seeks to surpass the evils she is already famous for, and famously proclaims nunc Medea sum (…), meaning both that she has recovered from the madness of love that had temporarily possessed her and that she us living up to her literary reputation as an exemplar of feminine evil. Similarly, the plots of Senecan tragedies are shown to hinge on generic as much as interpersonal conflict, as when Phaedra uses the language of Augustan love elegy to describe herself, in a genre-based misreading of her situation that ultimately brings about her downfall. Characters in Senecan tragedy, from Phaedra to Oedipus and Cassandra, are situated, partial, and fallible readers, who misread the ambiguous signs of the world around them. (…) Trinacty’s book makes a strong case for seeing Seneca’s tragic poetics as inseparable from the metaphysics of allusion. (IKA WILLIS in Reception: Texts, Readers, Audiences, History, 2015, pp.121-123).