Jean Racine Reads the Ancients: Classical Allusions and Ancient Poetics in Andromaque, Britannicus, and Phédre et Hippolyte.

Gilbert, Mary, Classics - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Mikalson, Jon, Classics, UVa

Abstract: That Jean Racine was an avid reader of ancient literature is well established (Forestier, Knight, Tobin, Phillippo), but underappreciated is his adaptation of allusive techniques employed by the Roman poets. Just as Ovid’s Ariadne self-consciously alludes to Catullus’ Ariadne, Racine’s characters become ‘readers’ of ancient works and speak with reference to their predecessor-selves. My dissertation demonstrates how Racine creatively interprets scenes from Seneca, Euripides, Tacitus, Homer, and others to carve out a space for his story within the parameters delineated by his ancient predecessors. In so doing he employs to great affect poetic techniques associated with Roman and Hellenistic poetry. These include ‘window references,’ or intertextual allusions that serve to direct a reader back to the source of a model (Thomas), and ‘Alexandrian footnotes’ (Ross, Hardie), wherein a poet signposts his engagement with a series of preceding texts that treat similar themes with appeals to tradition or past report. These stylistic techniques that Racine has adopted from his study of Greek and Latin literature allow Racine to graft his own versions of Greek mythology or Roman history onto frameworks established by ancient poets and historians and to reinterpret earlier versions of a story in light of his own contribution to the narrative.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Jean Racine, Euripides, Seneca, Intertextuality , Tragedy
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