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HesperosStudies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on his Seventieth Birthday$
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P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, and N. J. Richardson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199285686

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.001.0001

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Greek Tragedy: Text and Context

Greek Tragedy: Text and Context

Chapter:
(p.170) 13 Greek Tragedy: Text and Context
Source:
Hesperos
Author(s):

A. F Garvie

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.003.0013

Recent scholarship has insisted that, if we are to understand Greek tragedy correctly, we must get behind our own modern cultural assumptions, and recognize that it was written for an audience with a very different cultural background. That means that the proper way to study it is in the context of 5th-century Athenian civic democratic ideology. Few indeed have seriously questioned the ‘historicist’ approach to Greek tragedy. Conversely, the idea that it means almost as much to us in the 21st century as it did to the original audience, because human nature does not radically change from one generation to another, tends to be seen as old-fashioned, and ‘universalist’ has become almost a derogatory label. This chapter shows that there is still something to be said for the ‘universalist’ approach, and that the ‘historicist’ approach, if it is carried too far, can lead to wrong interpretations of a play. The two approaches can be combined, and the question is really one of priority.

Keywords:   Greek tragedy, historicist, universalist

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