Fischer-Lichte, Review of Liapis, Pavlou & Petrides, Debating with the Eumenides

"The focus of the [book] rests on two sets of problems that overlap or intersect in various ways. The first regards modern Greek national and cultural identities that – to a large extent – are based on the cultural memory shaped by a constant
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  RECEPTIONAND HISTORY OF SCHOLARSHIP LIAPIS (V.), PAVLOU (M.) and PETRIDES(A.K.) (eds) Debating with the Eumenides:Aspects of the Reception of Greek Tragedyin Modern Greece (Pierides 8). Newcastleupon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing,2017. Pp. 260. £61.99. 9781443879644. doi:10.1017/S0075426919000533 The articles assembled in this book result from athree-year research project (2012–2015) under thedirection of Liapis and titled ‘Our Heroic Debatewith the Eumenides: Greek Tragedy and thePoetics of Identity in Modern Greek Poetry andDrama’, which alludes to a short poem by theGreek poet Giorgos Seferis (in  Book of Exercises 1,Athens 1940). The project was hosted by theOpen University of Cyprus and funded by theCyprus Research Promotion Foundation(https://eumenides.ouc.ac.cy). Eight of the articleswere first presented at a conference held by the project in Nicosia, Cyprus, on 21–22 December 2014, and have been partly – even substantially – revised for publication in this volume. The focus of the conference as well as the project rests on two sets of problems that overlap or intersect in various ways. The first regards modernGreek national and cultural identities that – to alarge extent – are based on the cultural memoryshaped by a constant dialogue with the classical past, particularly with Greek tragedy. This hasresulted in ancient Greek tragedy and tragic myth being used in multifarious ways in modern Greek  poetry and theatre from the late 19thcentury to the present day. The second set of problems concerns just these multifarious receptions and thus ismethodological in nature. This gives rise to thequestion of how to find the appropriate means for dealing with such productive receptions and how totheorize them. The contributions to the volume – explicitly or implicitly – cover both sets of  problems, even while setting up different priorities.Of particular importance regarding the secondset is the book’s first chapter, ‘Can transmissionand transformation be reconciled?’, by LornaHardwick. It not only spells out all the problemsentailed by a number of reception theories andargues convincingly in favour of concepts such as‘dialogue’, ‘polyphonic conversation’, ‘multi-directional possibilities’ and related procedures. Italso demonstrates in a highly persuasive manner how such procedures can be productively appliedto the ‘conversation’ with Homer by the poetsConstantine P. Cavafy, Derek Mahon and MichaelLongley. Most of the other articles, in one way or another, refer and contribute to this issue. Thevolume can therefore be regarded as a valuablecontribution to the field of reception studies. Regarding the first set of problems, all thecontributions, despite other differences betweenthem, agree on the enormous divide separating the poetry (which chapters 2–5 address) and drama(covered by chapters 6–9) of the 1960s and later from that of the 19th and early 20thcenturies interms of their relationships to ancient Greece. Thisdivide is of particular relevance to theatre. AsTheodore Grammatas and Maria Dimaki-Zoraargue in ‘Memories of heroines in memories of spectators: mythic, dramatic and theatrical timefrom the ancient drama to the modern Greek theatre’ (chapter 6), spectators usually refer to a‘collective’ or ‘cultural’ memory based on readingand watching various revisions of the tragic myth.Contemporary plays attacking the certainty of thismemory are thus able to undermine it.This appears as a prerequisite for modern playsreferring back to ancient Greek tragedy; not onlydo they intervene in the political situation but theyalso shatter prevalent ideas of a Greek nationalidentity as well as of a deep-rooted Westerntradition hailing ancient Greece. This is shownquite convincingly in Gonda van Steen’s article,‘Radically rewriting the myth of the Atreids inAthens, 1964’ (chapter 7). This deals withVanghelis Katsani’s play When the Atreids ... or  The Successors ,which replaces Orestes, assaviour, with the people. This line of thought iseven more radicalized by Marios Pontikas’ play  Neighing  ,as Liapis demonstrates in chapter 9when elaborating its violent questioning of  REVIEWS OF BOOKS  Journal of Hellenic Studies 139 (2019) page 1 of 2© The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies 2019doi:10.1017/S0075426919000533 https://www.cambridge.org/core/terms. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0075426919000533Downloaded from https://www.cambridge.org/core. University of Leeds, on 13 Oct 2019 at 18:23:34, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at  REVIEWS OF BOOKS logocentrism and the mindless glorification of a‘humanist’ approach to antiquity. As these few examples indicate, the book  provides a thoughtful discussion of both sets of  problems. Moreover, it highlights that, regarding poetry and theatre, any discussion related to oneset of problems spans, or at least calls for consid-eration of, the other. For, as most contributionsshow, it is, in fact, the dialogues, polyphonicconversations and other multidirectional possibil-ities, via which Greek tragedy and the tragic mythare referred to and transformed, that not onlyallow for but even demand a transformation of national and cultural identities without prescribingor imposing a particular version. The book deserves a wide readership of all those who havean interest in the two fields.E RIKA F ISCHER  -L ICHTE  Freie Universität Berlin theater@zedat.fu-berlin.de 2 https://www.cambridge.org/core/terms. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0075426919000533Downloaded from https://www.cambridge.org/core. University of Leeds, on 13 Oct 2019 at 18:23:34, subject to the Cambridge Core terms of use, available at
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