Ritual and civic temporalities in Greek tragedy
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My dissertation evaluates prior approaches to time and temporality in Greek studies before addressing the issue in a more socio-historical fashion. In contrast to research that charts “time consciousness” diachronically, I focus on how certain temporalities predominate in a given context. I establish just how pervasively temporality figures into ritual, revenge, the nostos, the law court, and rhetorical debate between opposed agents. I then present my own views on what I term “agonistic temporal framing:” a discursive process in which competing agents seek to undermine each other’s understanding of the past and future. This framework allows me to account for both the form and content of debates which predominate largely at the end of tragedies, as in the Oresteia and Heracles. The second chapter examines Agamemnon, a play which evokes, in scene after scene, ritual liminality nearly at an end. Rites which should signal a cessation of this ritual time, however, become ceremonies of a new, contiguous duration of ritual temporality. Thus the newly returned herald, despite himself, pollutes the holy day of Agamemnon’s homecoming (nostos). So too with Agamemnon’s return: it is transformed by Clytemnestra into the opening sequence of a new sacrifice. Furthermore, the queen systematically appropriates the temporal mastery associated with the nostos figure. vi In Choephoroi (chapter three), Orestes and Electra reverse the polarities of ritual against Clytemnestra as she had done against their father; her attempt at desacralization results in its opposite. This play explicitly defines the suspension of normality as a delay caused by prolonged ritual stasis. Orestes also (re)appropriates nostos temporality to overcome Clytemnestra: he thus performs a more “Odyssean” nostos than did his father. Ritual time is greatly complicated in Eumenides (chapter four); the ensuing stasis reaches cosmic proportions. Juridical temporality resolves the concatenation of ritual states: I compare texts such as the Apology to the final scene of Eum. Final desacralization arrives with the torch procession, moving off stage instead of on stage as the beacons did at the beginning of Agamemnon. I conclude my dissertation with a discussion of Euripides’ Electra and Heracles before turning to Sophocles’ Ajax and Oedipus Coloneus.