Cynthia Haven at The Book Haven:
For 1,500 years, no writer except Virgil held more esteem in the classical world than Seneca. And today? “We read every major tragedian in the Western tradition, except Seneca,” says poet and author Dana Gioia, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s setting out to rectify that situation.
“If Seneca’s plays survived the sack of Rome, the burning of libraries, the leaky roofs of monasteries, the appetites of beetle larvae, and the erosions of rot and mildew, they have not had a conspicuously easier time among modern critics,” he continues. “His tragedies have been dismissed both for too closely resembling Greek models and for too freely departing from them. As the classicist Frederick Ahl has noted, ‘no field of literary study rivals that of Latin poetry in so systematically belittling the quality of its works and authors.’ , “No Roman genre has suffered more consistent disparagement than tragedy.”
Seneca may be the season’s comeback kid. The former California poet laureate has just published a new verse translation of Seneca’s The Madness of Hercules (Wiseblood). Wiseblood notes that the violent and visionary play “takes the reader to the extremes of human suffering and beyond – including a descent into the Underworld, an account that echoes through the ages to Dante and Eliot.”