The Adaptation of Myth: Semele’s Story in Pindar, Euripides, and Hölderlin’s Poetry

Maria Arpaia

Abstract


In the study of the reception and the interpretation of literary adaptations, myth represents a privileged example to analyse the rewriting of a narrative plot in chronologically distant literary systems, which employ different communicative strategies.

The semiotic components and structures of mythical narrative are continually reworked, depending on the historical period, the writing occasion, and the educational aims of the text. Every literary work that reshapes a myth, in the classical world as well as in modern literature, is itself an adaptation.

Taking Friedrich Hölderlin’s literary production as a model, it would be possible to outline the survival of Semele’s myth, from its classical sources – the works by Pindar and Euripides translated in German by the poet – to its mythological retelling in Hölderlin’s lyrical production. This reworking process implies multiple code switching, including linguistic adaptation (the translation from Greek to German), genre shift (from choral lyric and tragedy to the subjective poetry of the early nineteenth century), and communicative strategy shift (the orality of Greek civilisation as opposed to modern written literature). Through a comparative analysis of the texts, I will point out how Hölderlin, far from just borrowing the themes of the Greek sources, interpreted the spirit by which the ancient Greeks created variations of traditional tales. Rewriting a myth segment resulted in a fundamental innovation on the tradition: by retelling Semele’s story, Hölderlin lays the foundations of a new epiphanic poetry.


Keywords


myth; intertextuality;adaptation; rewriting

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13125/2039-6597/625

NBN: http://nbn.depositolegale.it/urn%3Anbn%3Ait%3Aunica-17359

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