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Cook, Kate
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
This thesis examines the use of praise and blame in Greek tragedy as a method of\ud identity construction. It takes sociolinguistic theory as its starting point to show that the\ud distribution of praise and blame, an important social function of archaic poetry, can be seen as\ud contributing to the process of linguistic identity construction discussed by sociolinguists.\ud However, in tragedy, the destructive or dangerous aspects of this process are explored, and the\ud distribution of praise and blame becomes a way of destabilising or destroying identity rather\ud than constructing positive identities for individuals.\ud The thesis begins with a section exploring the importance of praise and blame as a\ud vehicle for identity construction in the case of some of the mythical/heroic warriors who\ud populate the tragic stage: Ajax, Heracles, and Theseus. I discuss the ways in which their own\ud seeking after inappropriate praise leads to the destruction of Ajax and Heracles, and the lack\ud of clear praise for Theseus in extant tragedy. The second half of the thesis examines the\ud devastation caused by women's involvement in the process of identity construction, focusing\ud on Deianira, Clytemnestra, and Medea. All of these women are involved in rejecting the\ud praise discourses which construct the identities for their husbands. Clytemnestra and Medea\ud further replace such praise with new discourses of blame. This process contributes to the\ud destruction of all three women's husbands.\ud Prioritising this important element in interpretations of tragedy, influenced by a greater\ud recognition of the ways in which tragedy draws on older genres of poetry, leads to new\ud readings of apparently well-known plays, and new conclusions on such iconic figures as\ud Theseus. Furthermore, within the context of the extended scholarly discussion on women's\ud speech in tragedy, this approach demonstrates an effective and destructive result of that\ud speech from a new perspective.
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    • 2 Herington (1985). See also Nagy (1990) 400-13 on the ways in which the tragic chorus' drawing on older forms of choral poetry involved the perpetuation of education in what were previously aristocratic values and ideologies, as a central result of its drawing on older genres of choral poetry. Friedrich (1996) 260-1 and notes provides a good overview of the approach which tried to cast tragedy as a form of Dionysiac ritual. Scullion (2002) is one of the most detailed objections to this approach, which is now widely considered to be unhelpful (see also Taplin (1978) 118-9; Vickers (1973) 33-41). For a more nuanced approach to ritual in tragedy, Easterling (1988) is a particularly useful discussion. See also Friedrich (1996); Seaford (1994); Graf (2007) 58-69; Foley (1985).
    • 3 Swift (2010). Similarly Dué (2006) explores the ways in which tragedy draws on older song traditions in presenting the laments of captive women; and Steiner (2010) & Carey (2012) explore uses of the epinician in theatre, particularly tragedy. See I. Rutherford (2001) 108-26 for a discussion of tragedy's use of the paean; R. Rutherford (2012) 45-7 on tragic appropriation of ritual song, and 48-52 on lyric genres more generally. Nooter (2012) examines the “lyricism” of the language of Sophocles' heroes. For a more general overview of this development in the study of tragedy, see also Gagné & Govers Hopman (2013) 18-25.
    • 4 On Greek culture as a 'song-culture' Herington (1985), Ford (2003) 15-37, who focuses on the relationship between performed song, literacy, and the first poetic texts.
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