Staging the Agon: Sophocles, Gorgias, and the Theatricality of Politics – School of Humanities Staging the Agon: Sophocles, Gorgias, and the Theatricality of Politics – School of Humanities

Staging the Agon: Sophocles, Gorgias, and the Theatricality of Politics

Staging the Agon: Sophocles, Gorgias, and the Theatricality of Politics

Discussants:

  • Valentina Moro (University of Verona / DePaul University)

The notion of tragic agonism is pivotal in the monograph on Sophocles on which I am working. The book’s claim is that the way in which the poet stages the agonistic exchanges between characters in his dramas is key not only to understand his notion of politics, but more importantly the political relationality within the polis itself.

Hannah Arendt has framed a crucial interpretation of the theatricality of politics, namely the idea that the truly democratic mode of interaction and action depends on a plural space of appearance in which everyone expresses their own self. The ancient Greek polis is, for Arendt, the crucial reference to understand the theatricality of politics.

In the first part of the presentation, I will discuss the idea of tragic agonism. In the polis, the theatre had in common with the other institutional spaces the political feature of people gathering in assembly and speaking in public. Indeed, public visibility, accountability of the speakers, and rituality characterized the theatrical connotation of all of these gatherings.

Tragic agonism expresses precisely the way in which the Attic tragedy staged the political relationality of the polis. In order to explain my definition of tragic agonism, I will refer to a crucial intuition by Nicole Loraux, namely the idea that the agon is the constitutive trait of the political in the polis; e.g. agonistic is the link between the citizens and the metics, between different social categories, between men and women, and so on.

In the second part of the presentation, I will use the notion of tragic agonism in order to read Sophocles’ Women of Trachis and Gorgias’ Defence of Palamedes. I will highlight the way in which both the poet’s and the sophist’s texts show the reciprocal influences between the theatre and the judiciary in classical Athens.

In both texts the interpretation of responsibility and judgement is not immediately stated; instead, it is a controversial matter and both authors interpret it by staging an agon. Indeed, even in Gorgias’ case – although we only read Palamedes’ words – we do in fact witness and even participate in an agon.

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Where
On Zoom

When

  • Tue, December 13: 4pm to 5.30pm (Chicago)
  • Tue, December 13: 11pm to 12.30pm (Italy)
  • Wed, December 14: 9am to 10.30am (Sydney)

The Zoom link
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The Critical Antiquities Workshop is an initiative of the Critical Antiquities Network (CAN) at the University of Sydney. CAN, co-directed by Ben Brown and Tristan Bradshaw, connects scholars working at the intersection of ancient traditions and contemporary critical theory. 

Classics and Ancient History is part of the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney.

Social Media

Date

Dec 14 2022

Time

AEDT. UTC/GMT +10
9:00 am - 10:30 am

Location

Online

Other Organizers

Classics and Ancient History
Website
http:// sydney.edu.au/arts/classics-ancient-history 
University of Wollongong

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