Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2019.07.28 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2019.07.28

Rosa Andújar, Thomas R. P. Coward, Theodora A. Hadjimichael (ed.), Paths of Song: The Lyric Dimension of Greek Tragedy. Trends in Classics. Supplementary volumes, 58.   Berlin; Boston:  De Gruyter, 2018.  Pp. x, 456.  ISBN 9783110573312.  €109,95.  


Reviewed by Ruth Scodel, The University of Michigan (rscodel@umich.edu)

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[The Table of Contents is listed below.]

The connections between tragic song and other Greek lyric poetry have been a lively topic in recent years and are probably the most salient area of work on tragedy now. This volume includes a selection of the papers from a 2013 conference at University Collge, London, with a couple of additional contributions and an afterword by Andrew Ford (full disclosure: I chaired a session at the conference but did not give a paper; one thanks me for helpful comments, though I have no memory of making any). Salient influences are Albert Henrich’s famous articles on metamusicality and “choral projection” and Laura Swift’s The Hidden Chorus. 1 Although the papers range widely over tragedians and lyric poets and genres, and there are few direct cross-references between chapters, this is a coherent volume., and it felt like the right length. Some of the essays argue for connections between choral songs and lyric genres, others for links with specific lyric poems; while I mostly found the latter less convincing, all the papers were well worth reading and thinking about. The volume is divided into three sections, the first “Tragic and Lyric Poets in Dialogue,” the second “Reconfiguring Lyric Genres in Tragedy,” and the third “Performing the Chorus,” but while the last section had more attention to ritual and to dance, they were not sharply distinct.

After the editors’ introduction, the first paper is a mild surprise, as Patrick Finglass warns us that we may be prone to overestimating the influence of Stesichorus. By the end of the essay, however, he has given back some of what his (entirely convincing) skepticism has taken away, especially with his argument that Stesichorus may have anticipated the independent-minded women of tragedy. Thomas Coward then suggests that the parodos of Agamemnon imitates the orthios nomos and Stesichorean rhythm and narrative method. Pavlos Sfyoeras argues that the olive tree of the first stasimon of Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus alludes to the olives of Pindar’s Olympian 3: Pindar implies that Heracles first brought olives to Greece, contradicting the Athenian version. The paper then argues that the locus amoenus that is Colonus in the song, when linked with the meditation on suffering that is the third stasimon, offers intimations of immortality that recall Olympian 2, while the treatment of Polynices in the play stands in contrast to Theron’s claim of descent from his son. To this reader, the argument seems far-fetched, but others may find it more plausible. Lucia Athanassaki examines especially the geography of the storm predicted at Euripides’ Trojan Women 87–94 (where Poseidon agrees to help Athena punish the Greeks) in relation to Bacchylides 17 (where Athena and Poseidon both help Theseus) and 18. The Theseus of Bacchylides represented thalassocracy in its Cimonian form, and so did paintings in the Theseion and the Painted Stoa. Euripides evokes a time when Greeks opposed Persians instead of trying to use Persian help against each other. The interpretation actually works even if we see no specific allusion to Bacchylides.

The second section begins with a very rich contribution by Laura Swift on the tension in the Oresteia between epinician and paean. The echoes of epinician and athletic language particularly point to Agamemnon’s failure to be reintegrated in Argos and to excessive individualism, while the paean belongs to the community and its hope of healing. Only at the end of the trilogy do the genres work felicitously. Then Andrea Rodighiero gives three case studies in Sophocles’ adaptations of lyric forms, none straightforward: the parodos of Antigone should be a paean, but it does not have the formal features; it becomes Dionysiac, and a chorus of old men are not normal paean-singers. The parodos of Women of Trachis distorts the usual hymnic conventions, and the second stasimon of Ajax evokes hymnic forms but deviates from them, with a sort of “double beginning.” This dense essay deserves careful study. Anastasia Lazani looks at the chorus of Prometheus Bound first in relation to partheneia and then to wedding-songs, and cautiously suggests that it reflects the Athenian reception of Alcman (Athens itself did not have maidens’ choruses). Alexandros Kampakoglou looks at the prominence of epinician discourse in Alexandros and suggests that, while other Euripidean tragedies used epinician themes by associating the victor’s return with kindred murder, in the Alexandros, violence and exile were delayed until later in the trilogy.

The third section opens with Richard Rawles on how the Danaids in the Aeschylean tragedy present themselves as a chorus, combining their supplication with themes that evoke the arrival of a theoric chorus. The chapter also offers a very interesting analysis of the exodus as prosodion slipping into quasi-hymenaios. Then Giovanni Fanfani looks at the first stasimon of Trojan Women, often included among Euripides’ “dithyrambic” songs, and sees a complex mixture of citharodic, threnodic, and dithyrambic. I would, however, note that the women of the chorus are widows, not parthenoi, at 1081, which complicates the choral projection.

The next chapter, Rosa Andújar’s “Hypochorematic Footprints in Euripides’ Electra,” provides a very useful survey of the confused evidence for the hypochorema and suggests that the form entails a separation between singers and dancers. She then applies this idea to the interpretation of 860–78. This is one argument that I would take a little farther. It is very difficult to sing and leap while dancing at the same time, so it would make sense for the chorus to separate when exceptionally energetic dancing was required. In this passage, the chorus first invites Electra to leap like a fawn, and a few lines later to sing accompaniment. These are surely distinct: first they invite her to perform a dance solo, but since she does not move towards them, they suggest that she sing instead, and she again refuses.

Enrico Emmanele Prodi then considers the chorus of Phoenician Women. The chorus members envision song and dance as central to their unfulfilled mission to Delphi. They have come to Thebes after sailing over the Ionian Sea (208–11), which means that Thebes must have been an intentional detour, not an incidental stop on their itinerary, so that singing at Thebes is entirely appropriate for them. Naomi Weiss looks at the metamusicality of the third stasimon of Iphigenia at Aulis, suggesting that the chorus fuses itself first with the Muses, then with the Nereids. I am unsure whether this fusion is quite as complete as that: while the audience will certainly link the present performance with those imagined, can there ever be no gap between the human chorus and the Muses themselves? The song evokes the hymenaios only to stress that Iphigenia will be killed, not married. Timothy Power makes the appealing suggestion that in Sophocles’ Ichneutae, the newly invented lyre is also the concert kithara—this new music is the New Music.

Finally, Andrew Ford’s afterword celebrates the disappearance of the earlier tendency to treat tragic songs as a category entirely different from other lyric poetry, while reminding the reader both of how much we do not know about the wider lyric corpus and that tragic lyrics are real lyrics. Ford points that not all the choral songs in Greek tragedy can be fitted into a particular lyric genre—they may mix genres, or address a situation for which no existing genre is quite appropriate.

All this is true, yet it raises my one reservation about the approaches in this volume. For a long time, scholars neglected the ways in which tragic choruses are in fact choruses. Now I worry a little that we will pay so much attention to what they share with other lyric genres that we will ignore what they do not share with them. In some tragic songs, the chorus is truly a chorus within the mimetic world, performing a song that belongs to a recognizable genre. Even in those, however, the choral song and dance is presented as spontaneous, although it evokes a genre of scripted performance. The performers may not belong to a social group that would ever have performed songs in this genre, or served in a chorus at all. Even in the case of those songs that most directly reflect a choral genre, in everyday life groups of people did not react to events by singing original songs with appropriate choreography. Dramatic choruses are rarely quite within the lyric genres they evoke.

Table of Contents

Rosa Andújar, Thomas R. P. Coward, and Theodora A. Hadjimichael, Introduction. 1
P. J. Finglass, Stesichorus and GreekTragedy. 19
Thomas R. P.Coward, Stesichorean Footsteps in the Parodos of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. 39
Pavlos Sfyroeras Pindar at Colonus: A Sophoclean Response to Olympians 2 and 3. 65
Lucia Athanassaki Talking Thalassocracy in Fifth-century Athens: From Bacchylides’ ‘Theseus Odes’(17 & 18) and Cimonian Monuments to Euripides’ Troades. 87
Laura Swift, Competing Generic Narratives in Aeschylus’ Oresteia. 119
Andrea Rodighiero How Sophocles Begins: Reshaping Lyric Genres in Tragic Choruses. 137
Anastasia Lazani Constructing Chorality in Prometheus Bound:The Poetic Background of Divine Choruses in Tragedy. 163
Alexandros Kampakoglou, Epinician Discourse in Euripides’ Tragedies: The Case of Alexandros. 187
Richard Rawles, Theoric song and the Rhetoric of Ritual in Aeschylus’ Suppliant Women. 221
Giovanni Fanfani, What melos for Troy? Blending of Lyric Genres in the First Stasimon of Euripides’ Trojan Women. 239
Rosa Andújar, Hyporchematic Footprints in Euripides’ Electra. 265
Enrico Emanuele Prodi, Dancing in Delphi, Dancing in Thebes: The Lyric Chorus in Euripides’ Phoenician Women. 291
Naomi A.Weiss, Performing the Wedding Song in Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis. 315
Timothy Power, New Music in Sophocles Ichneutae. 343
Andrew Ford, Afterword: On the Nonexistence of Tragic Odes. 367
Bibliography. 381
Notes on Contributors. 415
Index of Proper Names and Subjects. 419
Index Locorum. 433

Notes:


1.   A. Henrichs, “Why Should I Dance? Choral Self-referentiality in Greek Tragedy,” Arion 3.1 (1994–1995): 5¬-111, and “Dancing in Athens, Dancing on Delos. Some Patterns of Choral Projection in Euripides,” Philologus 140 (1996): 48–62; L. Swift, The Hidden Chorus: Echoes of Genre in Tragic Lyric (Oxford 2010).

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