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Euripides’s Revolution under CoverAn Essay$
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Pietro Pucci

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501700613

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501700613.001.0001

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Figures of Metalepsis: The Invention of “Literature”

Figures of Metalepsis: The Invention of “Literature”

14. Figures of Metalepsis: The Invention of “Literature”
Euripides’s Revolution under Cover

Pietro Pucci

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on figures of metalepsis in Euripides's plays. In her attack on Helen's self-defense, Hecuba explicitly mocks the most sacred epic and tragic convention, the divine epiphany. The audience must have thought that she had suddenly left the cultural frame of the story and had taken on a metadramatic role, declaring to them that she did not belong to the traditional story. This change in narrative sequence, tone, and consistency is a rhetorical phenomenon known as metalepsis. Analogous cases, in which a character plays an extended and coherent enlightened role, include Phaedra in Hippolytus, Theseus in Suppliant Women, and Teiresias in Bacchae. This chapter examines Euripides's enlightened transformation of traditional characters. More specifically, it considers how, in their adversarial roles, Hecuba and the others abandon the specific phenomenology of the myth and become what we call “literary” characters.

Keywords:   metalepsis, Euripides, plays, Helen, Hecuba, myth, literary characters, divine epiphany

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