Thomas J. Nelson deposited The Shadow of Aristophanes: Hellenistic Poetry’s Reception of Comic Poetics on Humanities Commons 5 months, 2 weeks ago
The significance and influence of Attic drama on Hellenistic poetry has been a topic of little consistent focus in recent scholarship, reflecting the dominant academic emphasis on Hellenistic poetry as a written artefact, allegedly detached from any immediate context of performance. This paper attempts to reverse this trend by setting out the continuing vitality and cultural importance of drama in the Hellenistic world, before exploring the role of Attic Old Comedy as both a precedent and a model for Hellenistic poetry. Much of what is often thought distinctively ‘Hellenistic’ can in fact be shown to have clear old comic precedent: Old Comedy, just like Hellenistic poetry, is heavily intertextual (even to the point of re-appropriating Homeric hapax legomena); engages in frequent generic manipulation; displays a strong interest in literary history; emphasises its own literary and metrical innovations; and displays a self-conscious awareness of the tensions between textuality and performance. Yet more than this, Old Comedy also offered a key paradigm of agonistic self-fashioning and literary-critical terminology which Hellenistic poets could parrot, appropriate and invert. Hellenistic poets’ direct engagement with Old Comedy, therefore, clearly extended well beyond the famous literary agon of Aristophanes’ ‘Frogs’.