Tragedy and fictionality

Ruffell, I. (2016) Tragedy and fictionality. In: Ruffell, I. and Hau, L. I. (eds.) Truth and History in the Ancient World: Pluralising the Past. Series: Routledge studies in ancient history. Routledge: London and New York, pp. 32-54. ISBN 9781138839403

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Abstract

Did ancient audiences consider tragedy as a form of fiction or rather as a kind of historical truth, or was there some kind of intermediate position? How did Greek tragedy relate to Greek mythology and what were the status and truth claims of that mythology? This paper argues that tragedy was broadly seen as fictional and only minimally historical. In the first part of the paper, I review different approaches to fictionality in modern theory, and show how these approaches have moved away from pretence or illusion models to ones based on mutual agreements or contracts, where the fictional work does not make (or pretend to make) direct truth claims but projects a more autonomous fictional world. Starting from the reception of tragedy in fifth-century comedy, but then moving towards the fourth-century philosophical tradition, the second part argues that a range of models of fictionality was understood and applied to fifth-century tragedy, but can be traced earlier in Greek poetry. The third and fourth parts of the paper consider the question of reference from (fictional) tragedy to the historical world and argues firstly that there could at best only ever be a minimally stable ‘historical’ world to which it might refer, but that fictional reference is best understood in terms of resemblance among plural worlds—a theoretical formulation well suited to the flexibility and multiplicity of Greek myth. It makes little sense to move tragedy towards history (in a modern sense) , but when considering historical fiction and drama, it may make more sense to move the historical beliefs of the audience more towards myth.

Item Type:Book Sections
Status:Published
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ruffell, Professor Isabel
Authors: Ruffell, I.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
D History General and Old World > DF Greece
P Language and Literature > PA Classical philology
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Classics
Publisher:Routledge
ISBN:9781138839403
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