The Polis and the Divine Order: The Oresteia, Sophocles, and the Defense of Democracy

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9780838752753: The Polis and the Divine Order: The Oresteia, Sophocles, and the Defense of Democracy
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The Polis and the Divine Order challenges the widely prevailing modernist assumption that the early Greek plays lionize great-souled individuals fatally pitted against conventional social norms. Emerging from a culture dominated by the myth of individualism, such a view reduced Greek tragic spectacle to a "self"-glorifying portrait gallery of extraordinary heroes crushed by distressingly inexplicable misfortune.
The plays do have immediate and troubling impact as depictions of personal greatness felled, but that is not their whole - nor most dreadful - story. In both The Oresteia and the plays of Sophocles, heroic catastrophe is persistently situated within a larger matrix of tension between private and public spheres of equally binding laws and sanctities. Such tensions subsume the fates of individuals within the drama of progressive or regressive social order. The fall of heroes is not separable from this broader social concern with a range of conflicts among familial, civic, and theological obligations and concerns that implicate both the subsidiary characters and the plays' heroic victims both equally and interdependently in the enactment of the life of the polis, for good or ill.
Personal and social chaos - the fall of houses and cities as well as heroes - result, these playwrights argue, when human beings - whether in the individual heroes' disproportionately private self-determination or in the chorus and subsidiary characters' collective irresponsibility - fail to enact a properly communal way of life, a tragic failure implicating virtually everyone in the plays. The Sophoclean tragic protagonists are but the first among equals enacting a common fate for which all bear a terrible responsibility and in which all blindly endure.

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William F. Zak
Published by Bucknell Univ Pr (1995)
ISBN 10: 0838752756 ISBN 13: 9780838752753
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Book Description Bucknell Univ Pr, 1995. Hardcover. Condition: Used: Good. Seller Inventory # SONG0838752756

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