Volume 13 (2009): Greek Tragedy

(Published June, 2009 ISSN 1209-0689)


Ken Jacobsen (Memorial University - Sir Wilfred Grenfell College), C. Michael Sampson (University of Michigan), Eli Diamond (Dalhousie University)

Preface (click to download)

C. Michael Sampson, Universals, Plot, and Form in Aristotle's Poetics.

This paper reanalyzes the role of plot in Aristotle’s Poetics, with a view to clarifying Aristotle’s comment that poetry (unlike history) speaks of universals (τὰ καθόλου) as opposed to particulars. I argue that the universals of which Aristotle writes are not general or metaphorical principles, but rather plot itself, understood as the universal form in a poetic substance and essential to tragedy’s telos and self-realization—the arousal of pity and fear. This argument resituates the Poetics and both its arguments and taxonomies of plot’s parts within the framework on Aristotelian ontology and teleology.

Anitra Laycock, Poetry & Polity: Tragic Perspectives on the Nature of Political Association.

This paper investigates central ethical issues in human association from within the context of the Hellenic polis ideal. This ideal is given formal definition by Aristotle as a 'whole of parts'. In the dynamic interplay between the 'parts' disruption and instability readily arise so that in practice the concord that distinguishes the just polis is disturbed. The aetiology of this pathological process is revealingly explored in tragic drama. The insights into the human condition that tragic drama provides will be the legacy upon which Plato and Aristotle will draw in reconstituting for thought the defining parameters of the polis ideal.

Dana LaCourse Munteanu, Timing Recognition: From Aristotle's Comments on the Iphigenia In Tauris to Gluck's Opera.

This essay examines Aristotle's discussion of the recognition scenes in Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris and in Polyidus' alternative scenario. It suggests that Aristotle might show interest in Polyidus because he intuits the significance of the timing of the recognition scenes within the plot. Gluck's eighteen-century opera, Iphigénie en Tauride, maintains the general structure of Euripides' play but borrows Polyidus' recognition scene. The operatic recognition provides a clear dramatic frame to the brief references to Polyidus in the Poetics and facilitates an analysis of the differences between Euripides and Polyidus.

Julen Etxabe, Antigone's Nomos.

In lines 904-15 Antigone states that she acted against the citizens on behalf of her brother, but would not do so in the case of a husband or child. I suggest that what separates Polyneices’s case from the hypothetical one of a husband or child is the fact that Polyneices is the last brother of a family on the verge of extinction. This situation demands a special consideration that is absent in the alternative scenario Antigone imagines. I show that Antigone is here formulating what she thinks is (or should be) a socially validated norm that legitimizes her disobedience.

Sarah H. Nooter, Uncontainable Consciousness in Sophocles' Ajax.

This paper examines heroic consciousness in Sophocles’ Ajax and shows how Mikhail Bakhtin’s construction of Dostoevsky’s hero sheds light on Ajax and on Sophocles more generally. The notion that Sophoclean tragedy functions by way of dramatic irony persists as a commonplace. According to this theory, the audience perceives what the characters onstage do not. I argue that Ajax follows an opposing model, according to which the hero’s consciousness exceeds the audience’s comprehension. Ajax, objectified and destroyed, is at the same time granted autonomy through Sophocles’ use of dramatic indeterminacy.

Paul Epstein, Aristophanes on Tragedy.

Aristophanes devoted two dramas, Thesmophoriazusae and Frogs, to the subject of tragedy. In both plays, the comic hero learns the telos of the art, which is the education of the spectators in their civic duties. These two plays also unify the comic elements of spectator, comic hero, polis-institutions, and the gods more radically than the other comedies of the poet. Because Dionysus is the main character of Frogs it can unify these elements even more thoroughly than Thesmophoriazusae.

Aryeh Kosman, The Divine in Aristotle's Ethics.

God plays several roles in Aristotle’s account of a good life, none explicitly. A principle of good in general and of human good in particular, God is specifically a principle of intelligent agency, of our ability to choose and thus shape and act in accordance with virtue. God explains well-being not obviously a result of virtuous action: the divine can be seen as the source of blessed lives. Similarly, the divine can figure moral luck, the way lives turn out despite our choices. Finally, God is the principle of awareness, specifically the awareness that a happy life requires.


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