Seneca: A New German Icon?

July 2004
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Summer2004, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p47
Academic Journal
The scholarly revival accelerated by the 1965 celebrations commemorating Seneca's death in A.D. 65 was accompanied in Germany by a remarkable surge of literary interest in the Roman philosopher. This article, beginning with a mid-century example, surveys the stages of that interest and analyzes the reasons accounting respectively for each. A postwar generation of Christian humanists in West Germany focused on Seneca as a proto-Christian while a younger generation of Marxist writers in the East saw in him primarily the model for a life of freedom and dignity under tyranny. The most recent generation in a unified Germany shares with Seneca the radical ethical criticism of his society. Günter Grass's novel örtlich betäubt (1969), the most immediate response to the 1965 celebrations and anticipating the stage of ethical criticism, constitutes a shrewd analysis of the responses to Seneca in three generations of West Germans.


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