Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.5.13


RESPONSE: Friedrich on Halleran on Friedrich et al.


From Rainer Friedrich, Dalhousie University, FREDRICH@is.dal.ca.

Michael Halleran had the formidable task (of which he has acquitted himself admirably) to review a collection of 29 contributions to subjects (tragedy, the tragic) which have been notoriously unkind to definers (M.S. Silk [ed.], Tragedy and the Tragic in BMCR 97.5.2) In such an enterprise it is impossible to be evenhanded and do justice to all contributions; they will unavoidably get different degrees of exposure and attention depending on the reviewer's inclinations.

My contribution ("Everything To Do With Dionysos? Ritualism, the Dionysiac, and the Tragic") happened to be one with whose argument the reviewer did not seem to be very much in sympathy; and so it gets, quite naturally, short shrift. May I, as an antidote, briefly raise two points?

(1) Halleran writes: "he (=Friedrich) goes on to take the ritual out of drama." Well, I don't, not in the piece under review. On the contrary. But I had done so in the past, I must admit: this was due to my enthusiasm for the Benjaminian-Brechtian programme of emancipating art and specifically theatre and drama from their parasitic dependence on ritual. Seeing the error of my ways I tried to make amends in my contribution to Tragedy and the Tragic by putting ritual back into Greek tragedy where it has indeed a strong presence in plot and imagery. Of course, I still agree with Benjamin and Brecht that drama became drama by ceasing to be ritual. This is, I can see now, quite consistent with conceding that in Greek tragedy ritual has an important function and a significant place which I try to determine in my piece, namely as dramatic and tropic material (as opposed to underlying structure or subtext).

(2) When discussing Richard Seaford's critical response ("Something To Do With Dionysos -- Tragedy and the Dionysiac: Response To Friedrich"), with which he seems to be in sympathy, Halleran might have mentioned that my contribution deals extensively (and critically) with Seaford's notion of tragedy as the ritual of the oikos-destroying polis-god Dionysos -- which I question on the grounds that it is predicated on a dubious dichotomy of oikos and polis. I had thereby tried to engage Seaford in a debate hoping to elicit a reasoned response to this criticism -- to no avail, as he preferred not to be engaged: he simply restated his view and found fault with me for not sharing it.