Dr. Loren D. Marsh
Ancient Languages and Texts (ALT)
Research assistant (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter), Department of Classics (Greek studies), Humboldt.Universität Berlin
09/2017 – 2020
Doctoral fellowship at the Berlin Graduate School of Ancient Studies (BerGSAS) in the program Ancient Languages and Texts (ALT)
Muthos. Aristotle’s Concept of Narrative and the Fragments of Old Comedy
My dissertation presents a new analysis of Aristotle’s concept of narrative in the Poetics, and then applies that concept to the structure of events in Aristophanes, the fragments of Old Comedy and beyond. Arguing that the term muthos in the Poetics cannot be seen as equivalent to “plot,” the dissertation suggests that the muthos concept is instead a useful tool for grouping larger sets of narratives based on specific criteria.
Applying this muthos concept to the surviving plays of Aristophanes, I show that despite the variety in their plots, they all have the same muthos. I also show that some fragmentary Old Comedies by other authors may also have used this Aristophanic muthos. I then analyze the fragments of mythological Old Comedies to argue they probably used a very different muthos type, and as a result never or rarely included a parabasis or an agon. Last by individually analyzing the structure of events in all surviving tragedies and satyr plays, I demonstrate that the muthos in the satyr play seems to be almost identical with the muthos in mythological comedy, and that the muthos in mythological tragedies seems to share key features with the muthos in mythological comedy. By contrast, the muthos of the single surviving non-mythological tragedy Persians resembles the Aristophanic muthos.
These results indicate that in this period neither formal structure nor the structure of events was determined by genre, but by the specific combination of tone (humorous or serious) and plot type (invented or myth-based). This means that the category of genre itself may be less helpful for classifying these plays than is typically assumed.
The revised dissertation will be published as a book by Verlag Antike in the Studia Comica series.
Muthos: Aristotle's Concept of Narrative and the Fragments of Old Comedy. Studia Comica. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2021.
"The Structure of Mythological Old Comedy", Philologus 164.1 (2020), 14-38.
"The Plot Within: megethos and mekos in Aristotle's Poetics" in American Journal of Philology, 136.4