Objects As Actors: Props And The Poetics Of Performance In Greek Tragedy

Hardcover | January 8, 2016

byMelissa Mueller

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Objects as Actors charts a new approach to Greek tragedy based on an obvious, yet often overlooked, fact: Greek tragedy was meant to be performed. As plays, the works were incomplete without physical items—theatrical props. In this book, Melissa Mueller ingeniously demonstrates the importance of objects in the staging and reception of Athenian tragedy.

As Mueller shows, props such as weapons, textiles, and even letters were often fully integrated into a play’s action. They could provoke surprising plot turns, elicit bold viewer reactions, and provide some of tragedy’s most thrilling moments. Whether the sword of Sophocles’s Ajax, the tapestry in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, or the tablet of Euripides’s Hippolytus, props demanded attention as a means of uniting—or disrupting—time, space, and genre.

Insightful and original, Objects as Actors offers a fresh perspective on the central tragic texts—and encourages us to rethink ancient theater as a whole.

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Objects as Actors charts a new approach to Greek tragedy based on an obvious, yet often overlooked, fact: Greek tragedy was meant to be performed. As plays, the works were incomplete without physical items—theatrical props. In this book, Melissa Mueller ingeniously demonstrates the importance of objects in the staging and reception of ...

Melissa Mueller is associate professor of classics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has published widely on the topics of tragedy and Homer.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:January 8, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022631295X

ISBN - 13:9780226312958

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Props and the Poetics of Performance
Props and Deixis
Organization and Chapters

Part I

1 Epic Weapons on the Tragic Stage
Exekias’s Ajax
From Text to Performance: Reading the Sword in Sophocles’ Ajax
The “Deception” Speech (646–92)
Hector’s Revenge  (815–65)
A Riddle Resolved
Weapons and the Poetics of Reperformance
Philoctetes’ Bow as a Haptic Actor
Conclusion

2 Tragic Textiles and the House of Atreus
Electra in Rags
Playing Priam in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon
Silver-Bought Textiles and Sensory Overload
Textilizing Agamemnon: Aeschylus and the Dokimasia Painter
The Weaver Woven: The Tapestry Scene Re-played
From Costume to Character
Conclusion

3 The Material Poetics of Tragic Recognition
Euripides’ Ion and the Power of the Replica
Objects and Interpellation
A Mother’s Symbola
Containing Time in an Ageless Basket
Autopsy, Recognition, and Collective Memory
Signatures of the Self: Signet Rings and Secret Signs
Putting Tokens to the Test in Euripides’ Electra
Grafting Culture onto the Body
The City’s Test: Recognition as Dokimasia
A Nature-Culture Hybrid
Falling into the Present: Recognition and Embateusis
Conclusion

Part II

4 Electra’s Urns: Receptacles and Tragic Reception
Receptacles and Reception
Electra’s Urn and “The Haunted Stage”
Hidden in the Bushes
Somatic Memories and Mourning
Temporal Materialities
Props as Props: An Intermedial Turn
Props, Pathos, and Nachleben
Conclusion

5 Ajax’s Shield: Bridging Troy and Athens
Ajax’s Shield as a Second Skin
Eurysakes the Shield-Receiver
Solon’s Sakos
Ajax’s Exodos
Conclusion

6 Tragic and Tragicomic “Letters”
The Deltos from Dodona: A Hidden Prop in Sophocles’ Trachiniae
Co-opting the Plot: Phaedra’s Deltos and Aphrodite’s Revenge
Reading Phaedra’s Deltos as a Defixio
Epistolary Dysfunction in the Iphigenia Plays
The “Rape” of the Tablet in Iphigenia at Aulis
Conclusion

Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
General Index
Index Locorum

Editorial Reviews

“Objects as Actors is a must-read for anyone interested in the mysterious and uncanny powers of theater, whether Greek tragedy or the latest modern productions. Mueller has succeeded in combining meticulous philological analysis of the handling of props by the major classical playwrights with groundbreaking theory concerning agency, cognition, materialist philosophy, symbolic economies, politics, and sociology. The result is a truly illuminating, densely packed book offering fresh discoveries about some of our oldest literature. From the sword of Ajax to the urn of Electra, from stage letters to tokens of recognition, Mueller’s laser-like probing continually reveals strange and moving aspects of the visual experience of Athenian drama.”