In this thesis, I set out to render Seneca’s ostensibly anti-Stoic tragedies consistent with the practical ends of Senecan Stoicism. I do this by reconstructing Seneca’s approach to poetics and by situating this approach within a longer tradition of philosophical criticism hospitable to poetry. I then apply this hermeneutic approach to Seneca’s paradigmatic tragedy, Medea.
On my view, the Stoicism of Senecan drama lies in the meta-reflexivity Seneca invests within the phenomenon of aesthetic response. Through engagement with tragedy, the reader/auditor acquires self-knowledge instrumental to progressing along the Stoic path. Spectator response serves as a kind of diagnostic tool through which the subject learns about their disposition to allocate their care in the world, and against which they determine their alignment with Stoic doctrine.