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31 - Pulling the Other? Longus on Tragedy (2007)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 October 2023

Ewen Bowie
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

This chapter argues that Longus highlights important features of his work that contrast with tragedy. The preface’s intertexts with Antigone and Hippolytus are crucial. The latter focuses attention on how to manage ἔρως, alerting us to differences in its presentation by Longus and by tragedians. The inset tales’ myths – divine lust leading to a young woman’s destruction or metamorphosis – present a story-type drawn upon by Attic tragedy and more generally by Greek narrative poetry. In confining destructive ἔρως to his inset tales, explicitly called μῦθοι, ‘myths’, Longus contrasts gods’ actions and mortals’ sufferings in traditional myths with their handling in his own story. Tragedy neither explores stories of mutual and symmetrical desire, nor presents positive images of female desire, both of which are crucial to the discourse of the novels. Longus plants a clue to this verdict on tragedy at 4.17.2, where Astylus, expressing surprise at Gnathon’s wish to have sex with a goatherd, ὑπεκρίνετο τὴν τραγικὴν δυσωδίαν μυσάττεσθαι, ‘acted out revulsion at the foul smell of goats’: the dramatic term ὑπεκρίνετο alerts the reader to the double entendre in τραγικὴν δυσωδίαν, which with the addition of the iota subscript often omitted in imperial Greek epigraphic and papyrus texts becomes τραγικὴν δυσωιδίαν, ‘the unpleasant singing of tragedy’.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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