Sheila Murnaghan

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20132014 Forum on Violence

Sheila Murnaghan

Alfred Reginald Allen Memorial Professor of Greek, Classical Studies

The Representation of Violence in Greek Tragedy

I propose to study the representation of violence in classical Athenian tragedy, with particular attention to Sophocles' Ajax and Aeschylus' Oresteia trilogy, works that stretch the conventions of tragic staging to present violent action directly rather than as an offstage event reported by a messenger. The question of how violence should be represented on the tragic stage bears on tragedy's distinctive identity as a civic art form (performed at a patriotic and religious city-sponsored festival) that showcases transgressive and sensational subject matter, and on tragedy's broader concern with the proper place of violence in a society that was frequently at war and constantly in a state of readiness for war.