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CRSN Graduate Workshop Greek Tragedy, Women and War

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Thursday, 27 June, 2013 - 15:00 to 18:00
Institute of Classical Studies (London)

CRSN Graduate Workshop
27 June 2013
Institute of Classical Studies 

Organised by Dr Anastasia Bakogianni (The Open University) and Professor Nancy Rabinowitz (Hamilton College)

This workshop seeks to explore the impact of war on the female characters of Greek drama in light of recent trends in feminist theory and classical reception. We will investigate how the ancient texts have been appropriated to address modern concerns and how such receptions can contribute not only to our engagement with ancient Greek dramatic texts, but also our understanding of the world we live in. The contributors of the workshop will debate these themes with reference to particular case studies drawn from their own research.


2:00-2:30: The War on Women: Modern Uses and Ancient Drama
Nancy S. Rabinowitz

It is a well-accepted fact that Greek warfare took place not only on the battle field with the armed combat of male heroes, but also in the aftermath when the women and children were taken captive. The Theater of War Project uses ancient plays, specifically the Ajax and Philoctetes, to promote audience understanding of the effects of war. While we do not encounter post-traumatic stress disorder in any straightforward way in the ancient texts, our awareness of the syndrome may enable us to see the ancient works differently.

I will take this lens and re-scrutinize the stories of war in tragedy as they affect women, looking at Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, Sophocles’ Women of Trachis and Ajax. Finally, I will examine the effect of the ancient policies of warfare for the women of the defeated army in Trojan Women, Hecuba, and Andromache in particular. The aim will be to explore in more depth the ways in which warfare affects the non-combatants.

Followed by Q&A

2:45-3:15 The Anti-War Spectacle: Greek Tragedy and Modern Conflicts
Anastasia Bakogianni

In the last fifty years Greek tragedy has been appropriated to lend its voice to the critique of modern conflicts. In order to engage with this debate the work of British theatre director Katie Mitchell and Greek-Cypriot filmmaker Michael Cacoyannis (1922-2011) will be explored. The case studies that will be investigated are Mitchell’s productions of Iphigenia at Aulis (2004) and The Women of Troy (2007) and Cacoyannis’ films The Trojan Women (1971) and Iphigenia (1977). Both directors exemplify the forces of opposition to the triumphalism of right-wing politics with their emphasis on war as a patriotic endeavour undertaken in defence of the nation. Both Mitchell and Cacoyannis inscribed the War at Troy with an anti-war message which they put in the mouths of their heroines.

Mitchell and Cacoyannis sought to engage their audiences’ sympathy on the side of the defeated and to debate the question of what constitutes good leadership. Mitchell and Cacoyannis manipulated the portrayal of violence in their receptions with a particular focus on a series of visual ‘spectacles’ that help to establish the anti-war tone of their receptions.

Followed by Q&A

Interactive session:

We would like to reflect on the following themes/questions in this session:

·        The active role that female characters play in the dramas.

·        Are the plays anti-war, or is it just the modern versions that are?

·        How does promoting audience understanding through the ancient plays, as the Theater of War does, change if we  
         emphasize women?  

·        To reflect on how modern theatrical revivals and cinematic receptions have contributed to public debates about modern

4:30-5:00 Plenary discussion

For more information or to book a place please email: