The Department of Classics at Stanford University invites you to attend a public dissertation defense by Lizzy Ten-Hove.
"Aeschylus and the Cultural History of Tragedy: Dramatic Connoisseurship, Ideology, and Poetics From the 5th C. BCE to the 5th C. CE"
In 456 BCE, the story goes, an unsuspecting eagle tried to crack a tortoise open on the tragedian Aeschylus’ bald head, killing him instantly. This dissertation explores what happened next—how assessments of Aeschylus’ contributions to tragedy and place in history shifted over the following centuries, and how his poetics and dramaturgy were variously described, admired, reviled, imitated, and avoided. Over the past few decades, scholarship on drama after the fifth century BCE has focused on important issues of reperformance and canon formation, especially in the fourth century BCE. This dissertation moves beyond these issues to ask a different, equally important set of questions: what place—or places—did Aeschylus hold in the cultural history of tragedy? Setting aside the historical Aeschylus, what is at stake in the stories told about him? What do these stories say about how tragedy is conceived and how it fits into broader cultural narratives and institutions? What implications do these conceptions have for literary and visual interpretations of Aeschylus’ life and work? In exploring these questions across multiple centuries and genres, this dissertation uncovers a rich case study in how ancient thinking about a single figure shaped the ways cultural artifacts were assessed and experienced—and the ways new ones were produced.
November 10, 2020