Is Seneca staging a comeback? Maybe…

Is Seneca staging a comeback? Maybe…

For 1,500 years, no writer except Virgil held more esteem in the classical world than Seneca . And today? “We read every major tragedian in the Western tradition, except Seneca,” says poet and Dana Gioia , a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “If Seneca's plays survived the sack of Rome, the burning of libraries, the leaky roofs of monasteries, the appetites of beetle larvae, and the erosions of rot and mildew, they have not had a conspicuously easier time among modern critics,” he continues. “His tragedies have been dismissed both for too closely resembling Greek models and for too freely departing from them. As the classicist Frederick Ahl has noted, ‘no field of study rivals that of Latin in so systematically belittling the quality of its works and authors.' , “No Roman genre has suffered more consistent disparagement than tragedy.” Seneca may be the season's comeback kid. The former California poet laureate has just published a new verse translation of Seneca's The Madness of Hercules ( Wiseblood ), which notes that the violent and visionary play “takes the reader to the extremes of human suffering and beyond – including a descent into the Underworld, an account that echoes through the ages to Dante and Eliot .” The also book includes a rich introduction that is almost as long as the text – a good reason in itself to buy the book. After so much neglect, a thorough reintroduction is more than overdue. ost Jaspreet Singh Boparai on Zoom The poet/translator did another favor for Seneca: an hour-long discussion of the play and the translation that was hosted on 30 May 2023 by the Faculty of Polish and Classical Philology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. It's on Youtube here . The conversation between Dana Gioia and Prof. Mateusz Stróżyński was hosted by classicist Jaspreet Singh Boparai – and as Dana noted, the university had the “kindness and courtesy” to host the event in English. Their discussion of the challenges they faced was excerpted in The Antigone Journal . Here's a bit of […]

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