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Abstract: The institution of the warrior in several Greek tragedies

The title of my project is: “The institution of the warrior in several Greek tragedies (Aiskhylos, Seven against Thebes, Sophokles, Aias and Philoktetes).” Its primary aim is to develop my method of investigating the tragic genre as it worked among contemporary audiences. Unconvinced by the methods of standard literary criticism, which, I think, project modern assumptions upon the ancient drama performances, I propose to adopt an anthropological method in order to come to grips with the nature of the tragic genre. While current literary criticism is based upon assumptions about ‘representation’ as the final aim of tragic drama, it makes a halt at describing and evaluating the tragic events and characters. An anthropological method will in addition ask how these dramatic representations are pervaded by the ‘tragic disruptions’ of the institutional order. Such a method is supported by Aristoteles’ statement that tragedy not just offers μίμησις (every art form does so), but in addition evokes tragic ἔλεος and φόβος in the audience: their reaction to the violation of institutional values in the drama. It is the aim of the project to analyze this complex nature of tragic drama: ‘mimesis’ pervaded by ‘tragic workings’ creating a mimetico-tragic process. In accordance with Aristoteles my assumption is then that the ancient theater not just offered a ‘representation of life’ aiming at an aesthetic reception, but that the ‘tragic workings’ acted dynamically upon contemporary audiences. Applying this anthropological method to Sophokles’ Aias, we will find that the tragic workings transform the dramatic representation, carrying the audience from a disruption through a confirmation of essential elements of the ‘warrior institution.’ In Sophokles Philoktetes, and Aiskhylos’ Seven against Thebes similar processes seem to be going on.

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