- The AJP Best Article Prize for 2019 has been Presented by the American Journal of Philology toElla Haselswerdt Cornell University
for her contribution to scholarship entitled "Sound and the Sublime in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus: The Limits of Representation," AJP 140.4 (Winter 2018): 613–642.
In this article Haselswerdt complements recent scholarship on the role that the senses play in literary works from Greek and Roman antiquity. She expands on earlier studies by illustrating how paying attention to the acoustic realm reveals a set of diverse issues—literary, historical, and topographical— informing Sophocles' final dramatic production.
Just as damage to vision is said to enhance the keenness of the other senses, so too in Oedipus at Colonus does the main character enjoy a heightened perception of sound. Oedipus remarks on how he understands his surroundings by "seeing with the voice" of other characters (OC 138). Included in this auditory realm are the tokens of recognition that signal to those on stage a change in circumstances; special emphasis is placed on the vocalized utterance of the names "Eumenides" and "Oedipus." Sound plays a particularly significant role in negotiating the relationship in the play between the spheres of gods and human beings, as human perception fails when it comes to describing the divine. The grove of the Eumenides, for example, renders the chorus without sight and voice, while other characters are unable to relate in words either Zeus' thunderbolt late in the play or the divine voice that summons Oedipus to the next, equally indescribable, stage of his existence. Haselswerdt then discusses how this depiction of sensory contact with the events of the lived world, as it becomes increasingly mysterious and ineffable, corresponds with the astonishment that Longinus, Deleuze, and Kristeva describe as resulting from confrontation with the sublime.
Haselswerdt closes by discussing the presence of the mythic in the landscape of Athens and its environs, such as the thunderbolt that separates Poseidon and Athena on the western pediment of the Parthenon. In particular she contrasts the representation of the divine in Aeschylus' Eumenides, written at the height of Athens' imperial hegemony, with that in Oedipus at Colonus, produced during its collapse. At the close of the earlier play, the gods are fully perceptible to the audience, which witnesses the descent of the Eumenides into their cave, whereas in the Sophoclean tragedy Oedipus' end is shrouded in obscurity and concealment, inaccessible to the senses.
Judges for the Johns Hopkins University Press
Anthony Corbeill (chair) Alex Purves Sonia Sabnis
The Thirty-second Annual Best Article Prize of $1,000 will be awarded for the best article to appear in the Journal in 2020. The Press would like to thank the members of the committee for their time and effort. [End Page v]
Johns Hopkins University Press