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Reviews237 ofboth literature and theater that Williams's continuing vision of a "new plastic theatre" would revolutionize the American stage for decades to follow. Robert Bray Middle Tennessee State University Simon Goldhill andRobin Osborne,eds.PerformanceCultureand AthenianDemocracy. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversityPress, 1999. Pp. xii + 417. $69.95. Recent criticism encourages us to explore interstices, the interactions between cultures, for example, or the interpénétration of genres. This collection of essays , drawn from a conference at Cambridge in 1996, pays attention to the overlap of drama, oratory, inscriptions, and music. The approaches are varied, asking why Athenian drama became so popular outside Athens, or what orators expected to do by quoting Homer, and taken together they help us to see Athenian society as a continuum. The editors want the volume to do more. Simon Goldhill in the introduction "Programme notes" sets out his expectations: "When the Athenian citizen speaks in the Assembly, exercises in the gymnasium, sings at the symposium, or courts a boy, each activity has its own regime of display and regulation; each activity forms an integral part of the exercise of citizenship. This volume suggests that 'performance' will provide a useful heuristic category to explore the connections and overlaps between these different areas of activity, and, moreover, that these connections and overlaps are significant for understanding the culture ofAthenian democracy" (1). The expectation that performance will be a central and productive concern is reinforced by the titles of subsequent sections ("The performance of drama," "The drama of performance," etc.) and by GoldhilPs extended overview ofperformance studies (10-20). Yet most essays deal with "performance" only in the formal sense that they discuss some aspect of Greek tragedy or comedy, while others deal with it in the vacuous sense that anything can be labeled performance: a study ofhonorary decrees is titled "Inscribing performance " simply because decrees were voted by the Assembly, and actions of the Assembly are in some vague sense performances. Goldhill gives a useful account of Greek terms for display and spectacle (agon, epideixis, schema, and theoria), and it is clear that his interest is not in performance studies (he swiftly dismisses Turner, Schechner, and Blau for their lack ofhistoricity) but in a neo-Foucauldian criticism ofAthenian culture as a 238Comparative Drama coherent regime. In this historicizing emphasis several essays do meet his expectations: we learn how attitudes toward the oboe or aulos reflect Athenian values concerning decorum and gender, for example, or that speakers quoting Homer must negotiate the conflict between elite authority and egalitarian values . Yet a fair number of essays address the democracy and its values tangentially or not at all. The following summary illustrates the wide variety oftopics and approaches represented in the collection. Oliver Taplin in "Spreading the Word Through Performance" reviews evidence for the staging ofAthenian drama outside Athens and considers the degree to which Athenian plays evoke or celebrate Athenian and non-Athenian locales. He concludes that Athenian tragedy is not closely tied to Athenian values, and that its spread was largely due to the Greek belief that it offered universal insights into the human condition. Thus the opening essay rejects GoldhilPs insistence upon the controlling regime ofAthenian democracy . Peter Wilson in "The Aulos in Athens" explores the place of this reed instrument in Athenian myth, practice, and ideology. The myth ofAthena and Marsyas is double-sided, explaining the importance ofthe auloswhile stressing how it mars the appearance. In practice, the aulos was most frequently played byforeignersandwas often associatedwith strongemotion,both ofwhich point to the "alterity" of the aulos (Wilson downplays its role in the elite symposium ). In Athenian ideology, the aulos plays a transgressive role in representations ofAlcibiades and Socrates. Edith Hall in"Actor's Song in Tragedy"tries to map rules for who may sing onto rules defining civic identity. If free humans may sing while slaves and gods (generally) do not, this reflects ambiguous attitudes toward song in the symposium. And if singing actors are (generally) women or foreigners, this coincideswith the civic categoryofnon-citizens.These rules assumethat Orestes, Heracles, Oedipus, Creon, Peleus, and Philoctetes are marked as foreigners; that Ion and Hippolytus are marked as non-citizen youths; and that Theseus and Ajax are somehow exceptions. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 237-240
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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