CFP: New Wine in Old Wineskins: The Place of Athenian Drama in Modern Society

Organizers: Eric Dugdale, Gustavus Adolphus College (edugdale@gustavus.edu) and Rosanna Lauriola, University of Idaho (lauriola@uidaho.edu)

Drama occupied a privileged position in ancient Athens. In Aristophanes’ Frogs (1053), playwrights are characterized as teachers of the adult citizenry. As Hall (2006, 95) underscores, tragedy was composed and performed by Athenians for Athenians. Despite setting its plots in the mythical past and ‘going away to Thebes,’ tragedy engages with issues of socio-political relevance, and its characters and chorus members often reflect values central to the polis’ self-representation. Old Comedy is more directly and specifically topical. Even during the Peloponnesian War, comic playwrights continued to exercise their parrhesia in choosing sensitive subjects and prominent individuals as the targets of their humor.

In many modern performances, too, contemporary ethical, social, or political concerns have driven performances, adaptations, or new versions of Athenian drama. This is an area of study that has received considerable attention over recent years. For example, the political appropriation of Greek tragedy by political prisoners in detention camps as well as by the Greek military junta has received welcome attention in Gonda Van Steen’s Theatre of the Condemned: Classical Tragedy on Greek Prison Islands (2011). Rhodessa Jones’ use of classical myth as a vehicle for incarcerated women to come to terms with their own past and regain their voice (see Rabinowitz 2008, 237-54) is one example of several recent initiatives in which the capacities of ancient drama to effect change, to restore as well as to raise awareness, are being activated. Lorna Hardwick’s recent chapter (2010, 80-89) examines productions of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata in which the political and gender dimensions of the play have received wildly differing interpretations.

This panel invites paper proposals that examine modern contexts in which contemporary concerns have informed the performance of Athenian drama or its cinematic reception. Proposals might, for example, examine an individual modern performance or film and its context, a cluster of contextually related performances, or the oeuvres of a particular modern playwright or director. Performance contexts could range from main stage and university productions to performances and workshops in classrooms and prisons. The panel also welcomes proposals that are theoretically informed, and those that seek to characterize the nature and trajectory of civically engaged performances of Athenian drama in the modern era. Are classical plays still seen as the purview of elites, used primarily as a political tool by conservative and liberal intellectuals? Is there a ‘democratic turn’ in their diffusion and reception? And how does the socio-political function of Athenian drama in modern society compare to its original role in the Athenian polis? If Athenian playwrights and those adapting their plays are still the teachers of the polis, what lessons are they imparting?

Abstracts for papers should be submitted electronically as Word documents by March 8, 2015 to Eric Dugdale (edugdale@gustavus.edu). Abstracts should be 650 words or fewer and should follow the guidelines for individual abstracts (http://apaclassics.org/annual-meeting/guidelines-authors-of-abstracts).

All submissions will be reviewed by two referees, and the panel as a whole will be evaluated by the SCS Program Committee.

Works Cited:

Hall, Edith. 2006. “The Sociology of Athenian Tragedy.” In The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy, ed. Patricia Easterling, 93-126. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hardwick, Lorna. 2010. “Lysistratas on the Modern Stage.” In Looking at Lysistrata, ed. David Stuttard, 80-89. London: Bristol Classical Press.

Hardwick, Lorna and Stephen Harrison (eds.). 2013. Classics in the Modern Word: A Democratic Turn? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rabinowitz, Nancy. 2008. “The Medea Project for Incarcerated Women: Liberating Medea.” Syllecta Classica 19:237-54.

Van Steen, Gonda. 2011. Theatre of the Condemned: Classical Tragedy on Greek Prison Islands. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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