Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Classical Studies

First Advisor

Sheila Murnaghan

Abstract

The extant corpus of Greek epic parody is small and difficult to circumscribe. Scholars have largely considered fragments of hexameter epic parody in isolation without contextualizing them alongside parodic epic allusion in comedy and iambus. Modern theoretical approaches to parody that emphasize the importance of strict formal categories have encouraged this approach. However, the semantic breadth of the Greek term paroidia, from which “parody” is derived, suggests that epic parody must also be approached as a trans-generic literary phenomenon. With this in mind, I examine how parodies of heroic epic in different genres from the sixth to fourth centuries BCE engage with the contemporary “life” of heroic epic: how it was consumed, how its poet was imagined, how it related to other genres and verse forms, and what knowledge or insight it was understood to contain. This guiding principle informs close comparative readings of fragments and passages that use the language or formal elements of heroic epic to comic or critical effect. Primary case studies include Hipponax fr. 126 Degani, Hegemon fr. 1, Aristophanes’ Peace 1270-1304, Strato Comicus fr. 1, and Matro of Pitane fr. 1; discussions of many other examples appear for context. I begin by offering foundational interpretations for a few important but understudied fragments, and showcasing the variety of ways in which imitation of epic language and form may invite the epic world into a contemporary comic setting (chapter 1). Each subsequent chapter focuses on a different aspect of the lived experience of epic poetry in the sixth to fourth centuries and examines how parodists invoke these contemporary practices and phenomena to make epic speak to current issues; topics include modes of epic performance (chapter 2); the close relationship of epic with other literary and subliterary verse forms (chapter 3); and the role of epic in educational and intellectual developments (chapter 4). By this approach, I offer richer interpretations of some difficult poetic fragments, fresh literary historical contexts for more canonical passages, and new insights into the life of epic poetry in antiquity.

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