Competing generic narratives in Aeschylus' Oresteia

Swift, Laura (2018). Competing generic narratives in Aeschylus' Oresteia. In: Andujar, Rosa; Hadjimichael, Theodora and Coward, Thomas eds. Paths of Song: The Lyric Dimension of Greek Tragedy. De Gruyter, pp. 119–136.



This chapter explores the representation of lyric poetry in tragedy, with a focus on how tragedy can incorporate multiple lyric genres simultaneously. It argues that generic interaction can be used to create a narrative arc and can guide the audience’s interpretation of the broader action. Rather than detailed allusion or intertextuality, we find small-scale references which may not seem noteworthy when taken in isolation, but which over the course of a play build up a pattern of association. Since genres carry different sets of connotations, the poet can create conflicting arcs, and bring them into tension to explore different possible outcomes, or competing motivations on the part of the characters. The chapter uses Aeschylus' Oresteia as a case-study, and argues that the trilogy codes the genres of paian and epinikion to be associated with competing ethical standpoints in the play.

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