Euripides: Tragedy and the Politics of Grief
To Aristotle, Euripides was “the most tragic of poets.” To his contemporary Aristophanes, he was a “morality-destroying quibbler and quarreler.” To Nietzsche, Euripides was, along with Socrates, the co-destroyer of tragedy. Behind these critical evaluations stands an extraordinarily varied body of work: tragedies of intense psychological focus, of political engagement and despair, of romantic intrigue and comic escape, of divine travesty and terror. In Euripides, women, refugees, and slaves come to the fore; tragedy and comedy are ecstatically interwoven; and old myths are subject to rational and moral critique. In what ways did Euripides remake—or, as Nietzsche has it, destroy—tragic drama? And, what can a reading of Euripides’s diverse range of work teach us: about the nature, technique, aesthetics, and experience of tragedy?
In this course, we will read and discuss a representative selection of Euripides‘ tragedies—plays that exemplify the imaginative range and interpretative challenge of his work—including Alcestis, Hippolytus, Trojan Women, Iphigenia in Aulis, and Bacchae. Throughout, we will give attention to the contemporary political and social dilemmas and catastrophes that shaped Euripides‘ work, as well as to his remarkably productive afterlife in the work of poets and critics to come. What compelled Euripides to revise and interrogate the great Greek myths? How, in a democratic Athens in crisis, was Euripides received—and how might he serve today as an example of the engaged artist? In what ways are tragedy and democracy mutually constitutive? How does Euripidean tragedy function as a forum for social and personal self-reflection?
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
November 19 — December 17, 2020
4 sessions over 5 weeks
Class will not meet Thursday, November 26th.