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Seneca in the English Tradition

The roundtable was held on 12th September 2012 and the Special Issue of The Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 40.1 (March 2013) is out now.

The special issue is the result of the recent round table on the reception of the English Seneca, focussed on its two most prominent manifestations in the early modern and modern periods. Seneca has long been a controversial figure in the history of reception studies, whose tragic and philosophical oeuvres have been damned as – variously – unperformable, excessive, or derivative. In the past thirty years, critical studies have emerged which have sought to reevaluate Seneca precisely because of his important place in the, for one, development of the English tragic stage from the 16thC onwards. Building on the work of Gordon Braden, Robert Miola, and A. J. Boyle, this volume seeks to revisit these Senecan moments, but also, more significantly, to supplement the picture of the English Seneca by attending to those playwrights and thinkers whose dialogue with Seneca has been largely overlooked. In following the historical efflorescence of Senecan influence in the early modern and then modern periods, this volume will also question the role of Seneca in constituting first political and then personal-political debates. While Seneca functioned as a template through which political allegory, hubris, and excess could be troped or narrated in the early modern period, the modern Seneca has emerged as a much more interior script, whose grotesque stage can play out the dark forces of the psyche.

The essays are:

  • Emma Buckley (St Andrew's), 'Seneca and early modern tragedy: becoming English (Matthew Gwinne’s neo-Latin drama Nero: A New Tragedy, 1603)'
  • Teresa Grant (Warwick), 'Seneca, Neo-Stoicism and the Shirley-Stanley Circle'
  • Helen Slaney (St Hilda's, Oxford) , 'Nathaniel Lee and Restoration Seneca'
  • Mairead McAuley (King's College, Cambridge), 'Seneca and Psycholanalysis'
  • Katie Fleming (QMUL), '“For everybody must answer the sphynx.”: Ted Hughes’s translation of Seneca’s Oedipus'
  • Elizabeth Barry (Warwick), ‘Conscious Sin’: Seneca, Kane and the Appraisal of Emotion'
  • Henry Stead, 'Ted Hughes: Seneca’s Oedipus by hook or by crook'