Ruins: Classical Theatre and the Archaeology of Memory
“There are certain areas of scholarship, early Greek history is one. . . where the scantiness of the evidence sets a special challenge to the disciplined mind. It is a game with very few pieces, where the skill of the player lies in complicating the rules.” - Iris Murdoch, The Nice and the Good
This seminar is an excavation into the sites of memory of Greek and Roman antiquity. As such it aspires to acquaint the scholar of this period with the ‘excavations’ of theatre culture of Attic and Hellenistic Greece, the Republican and Imperial Rome, and late antiquity, through its surviving artifacts, narratives, and its erasures. The objective of the course is to return to and re-encounter an overly constructed period through its basic primary sources (archeologic, textual, architectural, iconographic), with all their uncertainties, ancient and modern, in the attempt to consider the totality of a culture that has survived largely through its ruins and its fragments. Among the texts we will consider are plays and fragments of plays, forensic speeches, satires, travelogues, monuments, and architecture. The questions that propel the course are those of memory: how antiquity has been remembered, what are the marks of that memory, and what are the marks of memory’s! erasure. To this end, a basic acquaintance of the plays, playwrights, and critical texts of the period is imperative.