In the second interview recorded at the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association in New York City (20-23 March 2014) CC’s Anastasia Bakogianni talks with Will Shearin of the University of Miami about the reception of the comic playwright Aristophanes during the Second Sophistic period.
Will argues that reception begins in antiquity. It is a methodological approach that helps us to destabilise a simple, singular model of the classics. His case study is Plutarch’s reception of Aristophanes. It is a significant point in the history of the reception of the master of Old Comedy. Will talks to us about the long shadow that Plutarch’s criticism has cast over the reception of Aristophanes. For many teachers of ancient Greek, both ancient and modern, the comedian is a pedagogical tool for teaching Attic Greek. Plutarch, however, criticised Aristophanes for his chaotic language because it did not fit in with his educational and philosophical approach to life. Aristophanes’ reality was not to Plutarch’s taste.
This case study of one ancient author’s negative reception of an older master demonstrates how classical texts can fall out of favour, sometimes for reasons other than those later generations objected to. Will mentions his work on the reception of another controversial classical figure, Epicurus. Together with Brooke Holmes he co-edited Dynamic Reading: Studies in the Reception of Epicureanism (Classical Presences Series, OUP: 2012).
Will’s work on Plutarch’s reception of Aristophanes will be published as chapter in Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Aristophanes (forthcoming in 2016) edited by Philip Walsh.
For Wallace Stevens’ poem ‘The Man with the Blue Guitar’ (1936) alluded to in this interview, see: http://www.artic.edu/aic/resources/resource/291