Blogging My Way to a Book

In 2014 or so I was a tenured professor, less than happy in my job, but without any plan for making a change. It is not easy to get a job as a professor in classics; it is harder to get job after you have tenure; and it is nearly impossible to do so without that holiest of holies, the single authored monograph.

I was tenured without a book because the department I was in didn’t expect one and I had published a lot otherwise (including a co-authored general audience book on Homer). The fact is that I really did not want to write one. Most successful academics are expected to turn their dissertation into a book. I hadn’t done that on purpose (I was sick of my dissertation and I wanted to do something different).

Perhaps more importantly, I also didn’t know how to write a book. It is not that I didn’t want to write about things. I just wanted to write about them in shorter segments. It may have been a lack of imagination as much as anything else, but I found many more reasons not to write a book than to write one: the fact that no one reads them, that lives are disrupted to write them, that we have an entire economy of knowledge dedicated to big books about small things, etc. etc.

That last phrase is not fair, completely. But, to crib from an ancient proverb, there’s a difference between a book that needs to be written and needing to write a book. After 2012, however, I started talking, thinking, and writing about the Odyssey in a way that clearly pointed to a lengthy treatment of a topic, if not wholly original, at least markedly different from work I had read before.

Some graduate programs do better jobs than others in training you how to do independent research. Many do a great job in preparing students to turn their dissertations into books. But few anticipate what to do next. This is not a huge problem, since the paths people take are so different depending on their institution, interests, etc. But the irony is that although I was a book review editor for a journal, had reviewed a dozen books, and had helped to write one, I really didn’t know what I was doing.

So, once I gave in to the desire to write a book, I started lamenting that I didn’t have enough time to do it. Fortunately, I have a spouse who is constitutionally incapable of not calling me on my bullshit. Over drinks in 2015, while I complained again that I just needed the time to write a book, she said, “look, you ran a stupid marathon last year. You spent hours every day running, training, and keeping track of every thing you did. I don’t know why you can do that and not write a book. You’re not a runner; you’re a Homerist.”

Now, to be honest, the conversation hurt my feelings a little bit because (1) running marathons didn’t come easy to me (I run like a rhinoceros, except uglier) and (2) she was absolutely right. I started to keep track of hours a week spent on the book project, making lists and schedules, and trying to break down the project into little bits.

It worked: I have books out in 2018, 2019, and 2020 (changing institutions and getting some summer funding for childcare also made a huge difference; the blog was crucial to those books too). But part of the story is also this website. I have written about the importance of the discipline of posting daily on the blog, but what I haven’t explained clearly enough is how each of the books I just mentioned relied on this regular writing practice for drafting, brainstorming, and progress.

So, for curiosity, inspiration, mockery, and whatever else may come, here’s an overview of the more than 30 blogposts that are part of my book on the Odyssey, out this week (The Many Minded Man: The Odyssey, Psychology and the Therapy of Epic). I am posting one each day on twitter with the hashtag #BloggingABook for about a month, but here’s a more organized collection.

Let’s start at the beginning. This post was one of the first that directly translated into content in the book, showing up as a table on page 16. It helped me to organize my thoughts about the structure of the poem without making an entire labor out of the structure of the poem.

Less often, I used posts to explore combining theoretical modern work with ancient concepts as in this early post about the work of Mark Turner, Aristotle, and narrative character was written at a Starbucks in San Antonio and is well integrated into the theoretical framework of the first chapter on Homeric psychology. Similarly, this post on correspondence and coherence in Odysseus’ lies.which became the framing for Chapter 5.

A good deal of the theoretical research of this book took me through post-structural theories like those in disability studies, which made me think differently about ideal bodies in Homer. I used some posts, like this one about Telemachus and monstrosity, to think through this. This ended up in a chapter NOT about Telemachus.  Several posts arose from my reading of disability studies texts alongside Homer, like this one about Thersities and beautiful minds, which in turn became parts of chapters and a forthcoming article.

I won’t even list all the posts on ancient medicine and mental health—I spent some time trying to learn more about these topics and most of the research ended up on the website (at least a dozen or more). This scholion on drugs made me think about ancient beliefs about addiction. As I explored ancient ideas of madness in philosophy and medicine, it was helpful to see how mythical figures at times appeared to help explain things like isolation and mental anguish (as in this passage from Aristotle). This contributed to Chapter 3’s examination of heroic isolation

Just a sample of posts and chapters

ChapterBlogpost
IntroductionSex, Trees, and the Structure of the Odyssey
Addiction and Self-restraint
1 Homeric Psychology Mark Turner, Aristotle, and narrative character
Complementarity
2 Treating TelemachusStudy of Scholia What’s Troubling Telemachus?
3 Escaping OgygiaHeroic Madness and Isolation
Sex and Anhedonia
4 Narrative Therapy[!]
5 Correspondence and CoherenceCorrespondence and coherence in Odysseus’ lies.
Eumaios, Storyteller
The Meaning of Odysseus’ Pseudonyms
6 Marginalized AgenciesA Little bit But not Too Long
Telemachus is not a Monster
The Millwoman’s Sorrowful Sign
Thersites and Beautiful Minds
How Much is a Slave’s Life Worth
His heart Barks
The Origin of Thersites
7 Penelope’s Subordinated AgencyPenelope and fidelity Naming Odysseus
Penelope Lays into a Suitor
8 Politics of IthacaThe Heroic Tale of Laertes
The Suitors Debate Killing Telemachus
The Trial of Odysseus
9 The Therapy of OblivionWhere Does the Odyssey End and Why?
Penelope’s Web Agamemnon on Feminine Fame
Conclusion, Escaping the Story’s BoundsPorphyry’s On Styx, Pseudo-Plutarch allegories from Metrodorus Allegories attributed to Porphyry by Stobaeus, Death and the End of the Odyssey

Part of what I love about research—when I get to do it freely—is the wandering path I take through things. Blogging gives me a sense of accomplishment (and that important reward feedback loop!) because it provides an end of sorts to a journey that lasts a day or just a few hours. Many posts are just me trying to make sense of scholia, especially longer ones like the large segments attributed to Porphyry in the Odyssey scholia. These were fodder for notes and content in the book.

Sometimes posts came from work in the scholia, like this one, where I tried to figure out the details of Telemachus’ journey for chapter 2. Indeed, many of my mythographical footnotes started or ended as posts on the site, like this one about Penelope and fidelity which contributes to one part of chapter 7. Some of the mythographical posts and studies didn’t make it to the book, but that’s ok because doing the work, as in this one on Nausikaa’s name, sharpened what I would say by helping me figure out what I didn’t need to.

Mythography doesn’t explain what audiences knew, but it can help show what they might have known which is why several posts talk about Thersites’ story outside of Homer like this one. A mere footnote in the book, but a useful one. On many occasions, I would think something might be important or interesting and find out only the latter is true, making it good for a post as in this scholion on Alkinoos’ marriage wish. It didn’t make it into the book, but Alkinoos did.  And I can’t even begin to figure out how to map my dozens of posts on Odysseus’ family and multiple sons onto the chapters of the book. But they were definitely formative.

Of course, some of the details I mined were important: this post on the end of the Odyssey was essential for footnotes in more than one publication. Often work on philological and literary problems, like what Penelope was weaving, produced posts that also involved scholarship and ended up in multiple chapters. In this case, a significant part of chapter 9. Sometimes philological investigations started as posts and then later added to larger arguments, as in this exploration of a speech introduction for Telemachus. This speech of Agamemnon became critical for both chapters 7 and 9 and appears in an article on Kassandra too.

Other posts respond to epic and other readings, shaping the tone of a section or chapter without necessarily being part of them as in this post on the hanging of the enslaved women.

Part of writing is figuring out which path to take. Some times this means writing stuff that gets moved around a lot. I had a series of posts on allegory and Homer which eventually contributed to half of the conclusion (originally a transitional segment between the two halfs of the book). Posts include translations of Porphyry’s On Styx, allegories from Pseudo-Plutarch, allegories from Metrodorus, and others attributed to Porphyry by Stobaeus

And, of course, there are posts on expected topics in the Odyssey. Naming Odysseus is no minor affair, so I have several posts looking at Homeric epithetis and their ancient reception of a man of may ways who is also quite shifty. Researching this book forced me to rethink the political situation on Ithaca from ancient perspectives, showing that Laertes likely unified a somewhat odd island ‘state’. This is an important part of chapter 8, which looks at Ithaca as a traumatized community

Rethinking the representation of agency in Homer really made me look differently at the representation of women’s agency in Homer. Some posts arose out of shock at reading passages anew as I had never read them before. The emotion and scene made it to the book. Part of the journey of writing this book was thinking about the suitors as full human beings rather than simple villains, especially in their political wranglings as in this post looking at their debate about killing Telemachus. This scene is critical in the book’s chapter 8.

In rereading representations of agency in the Odyssey it was necessary to think about heroes, non-heroes, children, enslaved people, and women and how these categories intersect. Some of the more explicit comments on these topics informed chapter 6 but are clearer in posts, like this one on the cost of an enslaved person’s life. This post contributes to chapter 6.  In the same vein, I also used a post to lay out the passages where Odysseus thinks about or responds to enslaved women’s sexuality. Working through these passages helped me understand the infantilization of enslaved people in the Odyssey.

Many posts were part of my writing process, which is to translate passages I want to write about. Laborious, but it gives me opportunities to post Penelope laying into a suitor like this one. This passage became part of thinking about where Penelope claims agency (and doesn’t). I cover the end of the Odyssey in two chapters, so thinking carefully through the trial of Odysseus was really important, I started this process by translating and discussing the scene in a post. The translations are improved in the book, but have the same core.

A second part of my writing process after translating is looking at scholia and commentaries, a step  often preserve in posts like this one on Eumaios as a storyteller. Again, this becomes part of footnotes and discussions, not central arguments in the book. Other posts like this one on the meanings of Odysseus’ pseudonyms ended up as footnotes and detail.

On many occasions I wanted to think more broadly about ancient literature and narrative. Early drafts from chapter 9 look like this post on how liars communicate but ended up being edited quite differently. Similarly, I would at times start to right grandly and in generalizations not fit at the point of the book I was writing. This one on complementarity can be seen in some footnotes from the introduction, but not very clearly.

Many posts start with questions about what lines mean from the perspective of Homer—so doing the whole clarify Homer through Homer thing—like this one on Odysseus’ lack of pleasure from sex in with Calypso. The work here influenced some ideas in the introduction and chapter 3.

Some posts also emerged as summaries of the thoughts in the book, like this one written at the beginning of the pandemic. It reflects on a project finished rather than attesting to work in progress. Others draw on the frameworks developed during research, like the post on Toxic Heroism and a School Massacre. Sometimes ideas started in the book but had no space there. This is true of my work on Kassandra, which went into a post before it became an article elsewhere and my personal reflections on the scene of Argos, the dog.

I did not know what the conclusion of this book would add until one day I saw a line from Cavafy online and then wrote a post about death and the end of the Odyssey. This post formed a third of the conclusion once expanded.

Where there are fewer blog posts, it is because I wrote directly to publication for some topics as in the work that forms some of chapter 4 (“The Clinical Odyssey: Odysseus’ Apologoi and Narrative Therapy.” Arethusa 51: 1–3) and a chapter in a collection that contributed to parts of chapters 2 and 3 (“Learned Helplessness, the Structure of the Telemachy and Odysseus’ Return.” in conference proceedings, Psychology and the Classics, Jeroen Lauwers, Jan Opsomer and Hedwig Schwall (eds.): 129–141). And many sections were also written for talks at professional conferences and invited lectures.

I don’t think there’s a clean and just-so way to end this post. There’s lots of advice out there about writing  a book in an hour or two a day and I am here to tell you it is possible. But it helps to have short term goals and ‘outputs’ to work towards. It also helps (probably more than anything) to have a stable job, good funding, and a partner who calls you on your bullshit.

Some sites say this is out tomorrow (in ebook and print); some say it is out November 22nd and December 25th.

Calling All Students and Teachers to a Tragic Agôn: Playing Medea

Just a few days left to win money and immortal fame! (For students in the US and Canada, at least. The competition in Greece is open to December 18 and so is the UK version)

Let’s start with the basic details:

  1. High School and College students in North America (and UK and Greece): Create a short video of yourselves performing part of Euripides’ Medea
  2. Submit that video by October 23rd
  3. Win up to $400.00
  4. Earn kleos aphthiton (“immortal Glory”)

Ok, let’s get to some details. Playing Medea is a student theatrical competition organized by Out of Chaos Theatre, supported by a Classics Everywhere Grant from the Society for Classical Studies, a generous anonymous donor who loves Canada, and the Center for Hellenic Studies. The UK and Greece competitions are supported as well by The Classical Association and BADA (British American Drama Association).

The contest is open to high school and college students in the US and Canada (as well as the UK and Greece, but on a different schedule with different translations) and there is a $400 prize for first place, and two $200 prizes for second place.  We’re using Diane Rayor’s translation and you can choose from a selection of scenes, all of which are available here

So, record a scene from Medea and submit it by 23rd October 2020. Our panel of judges (including representatives from the British American Drama Academy) will watch all submissions and then announce the winners during the Reading Greek Tragedy Online episode on Medea on 11th November 2020. 

This competition has grown out of the weekly meetings of Reading Greek Tragedy Online. We started this project during the early days of the pandemic lockdown in the United States and have learned a lot about Greek tragedy and performance while also maintaining some sense of community even while living alone. We know that this is a year of unparalleled isolation and stress for students and teachers alike, so we designed this project to expand our community and encourage others to strengthen their own.

We encourage creativity and daring, and we welcome all contributions however modest they may seem. Entries can be recorded entirely on zoom, or by groups who are able to share the same space. University or high school groups can enter multiple times, but each actor can appear in only one submission.

Our website also includes a dramaturgy pack (thanks to Emma Pauly for putting it together) which includes information about the play, its characters, and its production history. There is also a wonderful Medea ebook created by the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama.

Here’s a video of Amy Pistone, Paul OMahony and me trying to be clear in on 3 or 5 takes.

Calling All Students and Teachers to a Tragic Agôn: Playing Medea

Let’s start with the basic details:

  1. High School and College students in North America (and soon the UK): Create a short video of yourselves performing part of Euripides’ Medea
  2. Submit that video by October 23rd
  3. Win up to $400.00
  4. Earn kleos aphthiton (“immortal Glory”)

Ok, let’s get to some details. Playing Medea is a student theatrical competition organized by Out of Chaos Theatre, supported by a Classics Everywhere Grant from the Society for Classical Studies, a generous anonymous donor who loves Canada, and the Center for Hellenic Studies.

The contest is open to high school and college students in the US and Canada (there will be separate competitions in assorted other countries) and there is a $400 prize for first place, and two $200 prizes for second place.  We’re using Diane Rayor’s translation and you can choose from a selection of scenes, all of which are available here

So, record a scene from Medea and submit it by 23rd October 2020. Our panel of judges (including representatives from the British American Drama Academy) will watch all submissions and then announce the winners during the Reading Greek Tragedy Online episode on Medea on 11th November 2020. 

This competition has grown out of the weekly meetings of Reading Greek Tragedy Online. We started this project during the early days of the pandemic lockdown in the United States and have learned a lot about Greek tragedy and performance while also maintaining some sense of community even while living alone. We know that this is a year of unparalleled isolation and stress for students and teachers alike, so we designed this project to expand our community and encourage others to strengthen their own.

We encourage creativity and daring, and we welcome all contributions however modest they may seem. Entries can be recorded entirely on zoom, or by groups who are able to share the same space. University or high school groups can enter multiple times, but each actor can appear in only one submission.

Our website also includes a dramaturgy pack (thanks to Emma Pauly for putting it together) which includes information about the play, its characters, and its production history. There is also a wonderful Medea ebook created by the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama.

Here’s a video of Amy Pistone, Paul OMahony and me trying to be clear in on 3 or 5 takes.

Covering Up Our Evils: Reading Euripides’ “Andromache Online”

Euripides, Andromache 368-9 (Full text on Scaife Viewer)

“Understand this well: whatever thing someone happens to desire
That becomes for them a greater thing than taking Troy.”

εὖ δ᾿ ἴσθ᾿, ὅτου τις τυγχάνει χρείαν ἔχων,
τοῦτ᾿ ἔσθ᾿ ἑκάστῳ μεῖζον ἢ Τροίαν ἑλεῖν.

RGTO Andromache

Euripides, Andromache 368-9

“Before, even though I was buried in sorrows
Hope always led me to this child who, if saved
Might provide some kind of defense or aid.
But once my husband married that Spartan Hermione
He has spurned my slave’s bed and I
Have been battered down by her evil tortures.”

καὶ πρὶν μὲν ἐν κακοῖσι κειμένην ὅμως
ἐλπίς μ᾿ ἀεὶ προσῆγε σωθέντος τέκνου
ἀλκήν τιν᾿ εὑρεῖν κἀπικούρησιν κακῶν·
ἐπεὶ δὲ τὴν Λάκαιναν Ἑρμιόνην γαμεῖ
τοὐμὸν παρώσας δεσπότης δοῦλον λέχος,
κακοῖς πρὸς αὐτῆς σχετλίοις ἐλαύνομαι.

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Euripides, Andromache 954-6

“You’ve laid into your kindred with your tongue too much!
Such things are forgivable for you now, but still
Women must work to cover up women’s afflictions!”

ἄγαν ἐφῆκας γλῶσσαν ἐς τὸ σύμφυτον.
συγγνωστὰ μέν νυν σοὶ τάδ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως χρεὼν
κοσμεῖν γυναῖκας τὰς γυναικείας νόσους.

This week we turn to Euripides’ Andromache, a play that returns us to the experiences of the enslaved women of Priam’s household, like his Hecuba and Trojan Women. In this play, we witness the dual sufferings of Andromache and Menelaos’ daughter Hermione. The former is the enslaved concubine of Achilles’ son, Neoptolemos and the latter is his wife. Hermione, however, is barren while Andromache has borne a son. This play returns us to themes of child killing revenge, legitimacy and the sufferings of women.

It may also have deep political resonance: This play’s date of performance is unknown, with scholars placing it as early as 428 at the end of the Periklean plague or as late as 417 BCE. Its treatment of women, children, and the offspring of slaves may reflect on the use of Athenian power during its empire and, perhaps, may comment on the Mytilenean revolt: when an Allied city tried to rebel from Athenian power and was voted to have all its men executed and women and children enslaved after its surrender. While this decision was reversed, it bared the nature of Athenian rule and foreshadows the demise of Melos 10 years later.

Euripides, Andromache 263-267

“Ah, you give me a bitter lottery and choice
For my life. Should I win, I am ruined
And if I lose I am unluckier still.”

οἴμοι, πικρὰν κλήρωσιν αἵρεσίν τέ μοι
βίου καθίστης· καὶ λαχοῦσά γ᾿ ἀθλία
καὶ μὴ λαχοῦσα δυστυχὴς καθίσταμαι.

Scenes (from the this translation)

1-55: Andromache

147-273: Andromache, Hermione, Chorus

545-765: Peleus, Menelaus, Andromache, Chorus

891-953: Orestes, Hermione, Chorus

1166-1283: Chorus, Peleus, Thetis

 

Euripides, Andromache 846-850

“Oh, my fate!
Where is fire’s flame dear to me?
Where can I throw myself from rocks
Either into the see or a mountain’s forest,
So I can die and the dead can care for me?”

οἴμοι πότμου.
ποῦ μοι πυρὸς φίλα φλόξ
ποῦ δ᾿ ἐκ πέτρας ἀερθῶ,
<ἢ> κατὰ πόντον ἢ καθ᾿ ὕλαν ὀρέων,
ἵνα θανοῦσα νερτέροισιν μέλω;

Cast and Crew

Andromache – Tamieka Chavis

Peleus – Michael Lumsden

Hermione – Evelyn Miller

Menelaus – Brian Nelson Jr

Orestes – Paul O’Mahony

Chorus – Sara Valentine

Thetis – Noree Victoria

Special Guest:Katerina Ladianou

Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

Technical, Moral, Administrative Support: Lanah Koelle, Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Aristophanes, Clouds, July 15

Euripides, Alcestis, July 22

The Chorus, July 29th [Special 10 AM time]

Euripides, Andromache 413-420

“Child, I who bore you go to Hades now
So that you may not die. If you outrun this fate,
Remember your mother, all I suffered and how I died.

Go to your father and through kisses
Tell him what I died while shedding tears
And throwing your arms around him.

Children are the soul of all humankind—
Whoever has no children mocks them and
While they may feel less pain, feel sadder happiness too.”

ὦ τέκνον, ἡ τεκοῦσά σ᾿, ὡς σὺ μὴ θάνῃς,
στείχω πρὸς Ἅιδην· ἢν δ᾿ ὑπεκδράμῃς μόρον,
μέμνησο μητρός, οἷα τλᾶσ᾿ ἀπωλόμην,
καὶ πατρὶ τῷ σῷ διὰ φιλημάτων ἰὼν
δάκρυά τε λείβων καὶ περιπτύσσων χέρας
λέγ᾿ οἷ᾿ ἔπραξα. πᾶσι δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις ἄρ᾿ ἦν
ψυχὴ τέκν᾿· ὅστις δ᾿ αὔτ᾿ ἄπειρος ὢν ψέγει,
ἧσσον μὲν ἀλγεῖ, δυστυχῶν δ᾿ εὐδαιμονεῖ.

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

Euripides, Ion,  June 17th

Euripides, Hecuba June 24th

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound June 30th

Euripides, Andromache 744-746

“I just let your words roll off of me:
You’re just a walking shadow who has a voice,
Incapable of doing anything other than speaking alone.”

τοὺς σοὺς δὲ μύθους ῥᾳδίως ἐγὼ φέρω·
σκιὰ γὰρ ἀντίστοιχος ὣς φωνὴν ἔχεις,
ἀδύνατος οὐδὲν ἄλλο πλὴν λέγειν μόνον.

Only Zeus is Free: Reading Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound” Online

 

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 609-612 (Full text on Scaife Viewer)

“I will tell you everything clearly that you need to learn,
Without interweaving riddles, in a direct speech,
The right way to open one’s mouth to friends.
You see Prometheus, the one who gave mortals fire.”

λέξω τορῶς σοι πᾶν ὅπερ χρήζεις μαθεῖν,
οὐκ ἐμπλέκων αἰνίγματ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ἁπλῷ λόγῳ,
ὥσπερ δίκαιον πρὸς φίλους οἴγειν στόμα.
πυρὸς βροτοῖς δοτῆρ᾿ ὁρᾷς Προμηθέα.

RGTO.Prometheus.poster-01-1

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 144-151

“I see you, Prometheus. Fear falls like a mist
Over my eyes full of tears
As I witness you bound to this rock
By these unbreakable offensive chains.
There are new leaders ruling Olympos,
Zeus rules without sense over new-cut laws.
He renders unknown what stood out before.”

λεύσσω, Προμηθεῦ· φοβερὰ δ᾿ ἐμοῖσιν ὄσσοις
ὀμίχλα προσῇξε πλήρης
δακρύων σὸν δέμας εἰσιδούσᾳ
πέτρᾳ προσαυαινόμενον
ταῖσδ᾿ ἀδαμαντοδέτοισι λύμαις.
νέοι γὰρ οἰακονόμοι κρατοῦσ᾿ Ὀλύμπου,
νεοχμοῖς δὲ δὴ νόμοις Ζεὺς ἀθέτως κρατύνει·
τὰ πρὶν δὲ πελώρια νῦν ἀϊστοῖ.

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 178-187

“…you are bold and bowing
To nothing despite these terrible pains—
And you are too free with your mouth!
A sharp fear pricks at my thoughts
And I worry over your fate,
Where will you ever go to find and end to these toils?
For Kronos’ son has unchangeable ways
And a heart never to be persuaded.”

σὺ μὲν θρασύς τε καὶ πικραῖς
δύαισιν οὐδὲν ἐπιχαλᾷς,
ἄγαν δ᾿ ἐλευθεροστομεῖς.
ἐμᾶς δὲ φρένας ἠρέθισε διάτορος φόβος,
δέδια δ᾿ ἀμφὶ σαῖς τύχαις,
ποῖ ποτε τῶνδε πόνων χρή σε τέρμα κέλσαντ᾿
ἐσιδεῖν· ἀκίχητα γὰρ ἤθεα καὶ κέαρ
ἀπαράμυθον ἔχει Κρόνου παῖς.

This week we turn to Aeschylus Prometheus Bound, a play said to have been part of a trilogy which included the now lost Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus Fire-Bearer. The play as been long attributed to Aeschylus as either late or early in his life based on its style, while for the past two centuries there have been questions based on the content (is this play too hard on Zeus?) and the form (based on uses of meter and language). The play has been attributed to Aeschylus’ son Euphorion and has been dated as early as the 480s and as late as 430.

The play’s use of myth and its exploration of justice and rather problematic Zeus makes it difficult to contextualize in Athens whether it is by Aeschylus or another. The Zeus of Prometheus is a tyrant and its eponymous character his apostate: the play’s tension comes from the interplay between his knowledge and the audience’s and the way his motivations are revealed through his conversations with characters like Okeanos, Io, and Hermes. Indeed, there is so much unclear about this play, that any given performance can radically change what we think about it. And this play hinges on our changing responses to Prometheus and his cherished knowledge.

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 263-267

“It is simple when someone is out of trouble’s way
To advise and criticize someone who is doing badly.
I knew all of these things. All of them.
I willingly, willfully, made my mistake—I will not deny it.
By helping people I created troubles for myself.”

λαφρόν, ὅστις πημάτων ἔξω πόδα
ἔχει, παραινεῖν νουθετεῖν τε τὸν κακῶς
πράσσοντ᾿. ἐγὼ δὲ ταῦθ᾿ ἅπαντ᾿ ἠπιστάμην.
ἑκὼν ἑκὼν ἥμαρτον, οὐκ ἀρνήσομαι·
θνητοῖς ἀρήγων αὐτὸς ηὑρόμην πόνους.

Scenes (from the Elizabeth Barrett Browning translation)

Scene 1 – Strength and Hephaestus
Scene 2 – Io, Chorus, Prometheus
Scene 3 – Prometheus, Hermes, Chorus

 

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 447-450

“At first, though they looked, they saw nothing,
While they listened, they did not hear, but they lived
Mixing everything up, like people in dreams…”

οἳ πρῶτα μὲν βλέποντες ἔβλεπον μάτην,
κλύοντες οὐκ ἤκουον, ἀλλ᾿ ὀνειράτων
ἀλίγκιοι μορφαῖσι τὸν μακρὸν βίον
ἔφυρον εἰκῇ πάντα…

Actors

Kareem Badr
Sarah-Marie Curry
Tim Delap
Ronan Melomo
Evelyn Miller
Paul O’Mahony

Special Guest: Joshua Billings

Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

Technical, Moral, Administrative Support: Lanah Koelle, Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Euripides, Andromache, July 8

Aristophanes, Clouds, July 15

Euripides, Alcestis, July 22

472-475

“Because you have suffered incurable pain, you’re
Going out of your mind, like a poor doctor fallen ill
you are depressed and you have no way to uncover
Any kind of medicine to use as a cure.”

ᾀκὲς πεπονθὼς πῆμ᾿ ἀποσφαλεὶς φρενῶν
πλανᾷ· κακὸς δ᾿ ἰατρὸς ὥς τις εἰς νόσον
πεσὼν ἀθυμεῖς καὶ σεαυτὸν οὐκ ἔχεις
εὑρεῖν ὁποίοις φαρμάκοις ἰάσιμος.

 

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

 

Euripides, Ion,  June 17th

Euripides, Hecuba June 24th

391

“Prometheus, your sufferings are my teacher”

ἡ σή, Προμηθεῦ, ξυμφορὰ διδάσκαλος.

Knowing Matters: Reading Sophocles’ “Oedipus Tyrannos” Online

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos 4-8

“The city is simultaneously full of burning incense
Songs of prayer and lamentations.
Children: rather than unjustly hear this from someone else
I have come here to learn it my self,
The man named Oedipus, known to everyone.”

πόλις δ᾿ ὁμοῦ μὲν θυμιαμάτων γέμει,
ὁμοῦ δὲ παιάνων τε καὶ στεναγμάτων·
ἁγὼ δικαιῶν μὴ παρ᾿ ἀγγέλων, τέκνα,
ἄλλων ἀκούειν αὐτὸς ὧδ᾿ ἐλήλυθα,
ὁ πᾶσι κλεινὸς Οἰδίπους καλούμενος.

Image may contain: text

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Last week, we postponed our reading of Hecuba for time to reflect on the meaning of tragedy and the creation of such shared art in the face of white supremacy and police killings. We return this week not because the work is done, but to continue using this space to reflect, connect, and commiserate. Sophocles’ Oedipus may not speak directly to race and racism against black people in the U.K. and United States, but it does force us to consider abuses of power, willed ignorance, and the kind of self-denial that allows each and everyone of us to look past the pain we share responsibility for in the world.

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, 59-61

“…I know this well
That you all are sick, and even though you’re sick
Not a one of you is as sick as I am.
For each of you must face up to a single share of pain
As it comes to you and not another.
But my soul groans for the city, for me, and you, at once.”

εὖ γὰρ οἶδ᾿ ὅτι
νοσεῖτε πάντες· καὶ νοσοῦντες, ὡς ἐγὼ
οὐκ ἔστιν ὑμῶν ὅστις ἐξ ἴσου νοσεῖ.
τὸ μὲν γὰρ ὑμῶν ἄλγος εἰς ἕν᾿ ἔρχεται
μόνον καθ᾿ αὑτόν, κοὐδέν᾿ ἄλλον, ἡ δ᾿ ἐμὴ
ψυχὴ πόλιν τε κἀμὲ καὶ σ᾿ ὁμοῦ στένει.

Scenes

14-57 – Priest
216-275 – Oedipus
345-403 – Oedipus, Teiresias
709-833 – Iocasta, Oedipus
994-1085 – Oedipus, Messenger, Chorus, Iocasta
1110-1185 – Oedipus, Chorus, Messenger, Servant
1369-end – Oedipus, Chorus, Creon

296: “A word does not frighten one who didn’t tremble while doing the deed.”
ᾧ μή ᾿στι δρῶντι τάρβος, οὐδ᾿ ἔπος φοβεῖ.

Actors and Crew (using this text)

Priest, Iocasta, Chorus: Tamieka Chavis

Oedipus: Tony Jawawardena

Teiresias: Carlos Bellato

Jocasta: Tamieka Chavis

Messenger, Creon: Paul O’Mahony

Servant of Laios, Chorus: Arguris Xafis

Special Guest: Efimia D. Karakantza

Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

Technical, Moral, Administrative Support: Lanah Koelle, Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone

412-414

“I’m telling you, since you’re mocking me for being blind,
You don’t see what trouble you’re in even though you have sight
Nor where you are living or who you are living with.”

λέγω δ᾿, ἐπειδὴ καὶ τυφλόν μ᾿ ὠνείδισας·
σὺ καὶ δέδορκας κοὐ βλέπεις ἵν᾿ εἶ κακοῦ,
οὐδ᾿ ἔνθα ναίεις, οὐδ᾿ ὅτων οἰκεῖς μέτα

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

Euripides, Ion, June 17th[10 AM EDT/3PM GMT]

Euripides, Hecuba, June 24th

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, July 1st

485-486

“Because I don’t believe this or deny it,
I am at a loss what to say.
But I am high on wings of hope,
Not seeing anything here or in the future.”

οὔτε δοκοῦντ᾿ οὔτ᾿ ἀποφάσκονθ᾿,
ὅ τι λέξω δ᾿ ἀπορῶ.
πέτομαι δ᾿ ἐλπίσιν οὔτ᾿ ἐν-
θάδ᾿ ὁρῶν οὔτ᾿ ὀπίσω.

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th

634-638

“Blockheads, why are you stirring up this civil war
of tongue-wagging? Aren’t you ashamed to be kicking up
personal beefs when the land is diseased?”

τί τὴν ἄβουλον, ὦ ταλαίπωροι, στάσιν
γλώσσης ἐπήρασθ᾿; οὐδ᾿ ἐπαισχύνεσθε γῆς
οὕτω νοσούσης ἴδια κινοῦντες κακά;

Madness and Ecstasy: Reading the Bacchae

Reading Euripides’ Bacchae 

Over the past few weeks we have presented readings of Euripides’ Helen and Sophocles’ Philoktetes, Euripides’ Herakles (in partnership with the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre). Our basic approach is to have actors in isolation read parts with each other online, interspersed with commentary and discussion from ‘experts’ and the actors. This week, we turn to the Bacchae (text to be used here).

Eur. Bacchae 196

“We alone are right-minded; everyone else is wrong.”

μόνοι γὰρ εὖ φρονοῦμεν, οἱ δ᾽ ἄλλοι κακῶς.

Scenes to be Read

1-64
170-329
460-518
775-1024
1167-end

 

Euripides, Bacchae 386–401

The fate for unbridled mouths
And lawless foolishness
Is misfortune.
The life of peace
And prudence
Is unshaken and cements together
Human homes. For even though
They live far off in the sky
The gods gaze at human affairs.
Wisdom is not wit;
Nor is thinking thoughts which belong not to mortals.

Life is brief. And because of this
Whoever seeks out great accomplishments
May not grasp the things at hand.
These are the ways of madmen
And wicked fools, I think.

ἀχαλίνων στομάτων
ἀνόμου τ’ ἀφροσύνας
τὸ τέλος δυστυχία·
ὁ δὲ τᾶς ἡσυχίας
βίοτος καὶ τὸ φρονεῖν
ἀσάλευτόν τε μένει καὶ
ξυνέχει δώματα· πόρσω
γὰρ ὅμως αἰθέρα ναίον-
τες ὁρῶσιν τὰ βροτῶν οὐρανίδαι.
τὸ σοφὸν δ’ οὐ σοφία,
τό τε μὴ θνατὰ φρονεῖν
βραχὺς αἰών· ἐπὶ τούτωι
δὲ τίς ἂν μεγάλα διώκων
τὰ παρόντ’ οὐχὶ φέροι; μαι

νομένων οἵδε τρόποι καὶ
κακοβούλων παρ’ ἔμοιγε φωτῶν.

Actors
Dionysus – Tony Jayawardena
Agaue – Janet Spencer-Turner
Pentheus – Richard Neale
Kadmos – Vince Brimble
Tiresias – Paul O’Mahony
Chorus – Nichole Bird and Sarah Finigan

Euripides Bacchae, Fourth Chorus (862-912)

“Will I ever lift my white foot
As I dance along
In the all night chorus—
Shaking my head at the dewy sky
Like the fawn who plays
In a meadow’s pale pleasures
When she has fled the frightful hunt
Beyond the well-woven nets of the guard—
With a holler, the hunter
Recalls the rush of his hounds
And she leaps
With the swift-raced lust of the winds
Across the riverbounded plain,
Taking pleasure in the places free
Of mortals and in the tender shoots
Of the shadow grove?

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Scarcely, but still surely,
The divine moves its strength
It brings mortals low
When they honor foolishness
And do not worship the gods
Because of some insane belief
They skillfully hide
The long step of time
As they hunt down the irreverent.
For it is never right
To think or practice stronger
Than the laws.
For it is a light price
To believe that these have strength—
Whatever the divine force truly is
And whatever has been customary for so long,
This will always be, by nature.

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Fortunate is the one who flees
The swell of the sea and returns to harbor.
Fortunate is the one who survives through troubles
One is greater than another in different things,
He surpasses in fortune and power—
But in numberless hearts still
Are numberless hopes: some result
In good fortune, but other mortal dreams
Just disappear.

Whoever has a happy life to-day,
I consider fortunate.

Χο. ἆρ’ ἐν παννυχίοις χοροῖς
θήσω ποτὲ λευκὸν
πόδ’ ἀναβακχεύουσα, δέραν
αἰθέρ’ ἐς δροσερὸν ῥίπτουσ’,
ὡς νεβρὸς χλοεραῖς ἐμπαί-
ζουσα λείμακος ἡδοναῖς,
ἁνίκ’ ἂν φοβερὰν φύγηι
θήραν ἔξω φυλακᾶς
εὐπλέκτων ὑπὲρ ἀρκύων,
θωύσσων δὲ κυναγέτας
συντείνηι δράμημα κυνῶν,
μόχθοις δ’ ὠκυδρόμοις ἀελ-
λὰς θρώισκηι πεδίον
παραποτάμιον, ἡδομένα
βροτῶν ἐρημίαις σκιαρο-
κόμοιό τ’ ἔρνεσιν ὕλας;
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
ὁρμᾶται μόλις, ἀλλ’ ὅμως
πιστόν <τι> τὸ θεῖον
σθένος· ἀπευθύνει δὲ βροτῶν
τούς τ’ ἀγνωμοσύναν τιμῶν-
τας καὶ μὴ τὰ θεῶν αὔξον-
τας σὺν μαινομέναι δόξαι.
κρυπτεύουσι δὲ ποικίλως
δαρὸν χρόνου πόδα καὶ
θηρῶσιν τὸν ἄσεπτον· οὐ
γὰρ κρεῖσσόν ποτε τῶν νόμων
γιγνώσκειν χρὴ καὶ μελετᾶν.
κούφα γὰρ δαπάνα νομί-
ζειν ἰσχὺν τόδ’ ἔχειν,
ὅτι ποτ’ ἄρα τὸ δαιμόνιον,
τό τ’ ἐν χρόνωι μακρῶι νόμιμον
ἀεὶ φύσει τε πεφυκός.
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
εὐδαίμων μὲν ὃς ἐκ θαλάσσας
ἔφυγε χεῖμα, λιμένα δ’ ἔκιχεν·
εὐδαίμων δ’ ὃς ὕπερθε μόχθων
ἐγένεθ’· ἕτερα δ’ ἕτερος ἕτερον
ὄλβωι καὶ δυνάμει παρῆλθεν.
μυρίαι δ’ ἔτι μυρίοις
εἰσὶν ἐλπίδες· αἱ μὲν
τελευτῶσιν ἐν ὄλβωι
βροτοῖς, αἱ δ’ ἀπέβασαν·
τὸ δὲ κατ’ ἦμαρ ὅτωι βίοτος
εὐδαίμων, μακαρίζω.

Euripides, Bacchae 1388-1392

Many are the forms of divine powers
Many are the acts the gods unexpectedly make.
The very things which seemed likely did not happen
but for the unlikely, some god found a way.
This turned out to be that kind of story.

πολλαὶ μορφαὶ τῶν δαιμονίων,
πολλὰ δ᾿ ἀέλπτως κραίνουσι θεοί·
καὶ τὰ δοκηθέντ᾿ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη,
τῶν δ᾿ ἀδοκήτων πόρον ηὗρε θεός.
τοιόνδ᾿ ἀπέβη τόδε πρᾶγμα.

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Videos of Earlier Sessions
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th 
Upcoming Readings

 

Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis, April 22nd

Sophocles, Women of Trachis, April 29th

Euripides, Orestes, May 6th

Aeschylus, The Persians May 13th

Reading Euripides’ “Herakles”

Euripides, Herakles 1256-1257

“I will convince you of this: my life’s not worth living now or even before.”

…ἀναπτύξω δέ σοι
ἀβίωτον ἡμῖν νῦν τε καὶ πάροιθεν ὄν.

Over the past few weeks we have presented readings of Euripides’ Helen and Sophocles’ Philoktetes (in partnership with  the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre). This week we turn to Euripides’ Herakles, a play which contemplates just how much one person should be alone and the cruel machinations of divine will. So, uplifting reading for everyone!

Euripides, Herakles 772-780

“The [gods] heed the unjust and
Hear the pious too.
Gold and good luck
Drive mortals out of their minds,
And pull unjust power together.
No one dares to glance back at time:
They pass by law to honor lawlessness
And break the dark chariot of wealth.”

τῶν ἀδίκων μέλουσι καὶ
τῶν ὁσίων ἐπάιειν.
ὁ χρυσὸς ἅ τ’ εὐτυχία
φρενῶν βροτοὺς ἐξάγεται
δύνασιν ἄδικον ἐφέλκων.
†χρόνου γὰρ οὔτις ἔτλα τὸ πάλιν εἰσορᾶν†·
νόμον παρέμενος ἀνομίαι χάριν διδοὺς
ἔθραυσεν ὄλβου κελαινὸν ἅρμα.

The text used will be the freely available translation on the Kosmos Society Website (Euripides Herakles, trans. By R. Potter with adaptations from M. Ebbot and C. Dué). The livestream will start at 3 PM.

Scenes to be performed

80-169 – Megara, Amphitryon, Chorus, Lykos
252-347 – Megara, Amphitryon, Chorus, Lykos
514-636 – Herakles, Megara, Amphitryon, Chorus
822-873 – Iris, Lyssa
1089-1254 – Herakles, Amphitryon, Chorus, Theseus
1394-1428 – Theseus, Herakles, Amphitryon, Chorus

Today’s Actors

Tim Delap – Tim has performed several times in leading roles at the National Theatre and in the West End. He recently played Rochester in the critically-acclaimed Jane Eyre
Evelyn Miller – just finished playing Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe. Other recent credits include leading roles at the National Theatre and RSC. Evvy is an associate director of Actors From The London Stage.
Richard Neale  – associate director of Actor From The London Stage with whom he has toured the US playing leading roles in The Tempest, King Lear and Othello. A director and teacher, Richard has almost 20 years’ experience of performing in the UK.
Paul O’Mahony – artistic director of Out of Chaos with whom he created the award winning Unmythable. He recently toured the US in their production of Macbeth and is currently working on two productions inspired by ancient culture. He has twice been a visiting artist at the CHS.

Euripides, Herakles 1425-1426

“Whoever wishes to have honor or strength instead of
Good friends reckons badly.”

ὅστις δὲ πλοῦτον ἢ σθένος μᾶλλον φίλων
ἀγαθῶν πεπᾶσθαι βούλεται κακῶς φρονεῖ.

Planned Future Plays

Euripides’ Bacchae (15th April) and  Iphigenia in Aulis (22nd April)

Earlier Readings

Euripides’ Helen, March 25th

Sophocles Philoktetes, April 1st

Building a Lyre and Playing Sappho

My name is Mary McLoughlin, and I am the creator of the Playing Sappho project (and of many lyres). Playing Sappho is both the name of my project, and my website where I have a blog and YouTube page dedicated to helping people re-create the music of Sappho, through How-To guides on building lyres, and signing in Ancient Greek, as well as some overall background for Sappho and her context.

I designed this project in fulfillment of my Senior Independent Study at the College of Wooster. I deeply love Sappho’s work, but I did not feel like I could add anything significant to the current scholarly debate surrounding her. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to design a project of public history and accessibility. One of the problems with classics, and the study of Sappho, is that it happens almost exclusively at a level of academic discourse (which is what makes websites like Sententiae Antiquae so cool!).

I wanted to make Sappho’s music more accessible, in its entirety. Which meant also helping people build lyres on the cheap, and figuring out how to sing in ancient Greek. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to do this work, and post-graduation intend to keep the project going (and building better lyres). It’s important to understand my re-creation of Sappho’s performance is far from ‘accurate’. Today, not much is known about what her performance would have looked like (though I do agree with scholarship suggesting it was public and choral).

I do the best I can, but I am just one person, now in quarantine, as we all are. When I sing in ancient Greek I am trying to make it sound good to a modern ear, Sappho probably would have thought it sounded ridiculous. This project is a love letter to Sappho, and in a lot of ways I feel as though I’m a little kid putting on a grown woman’s appearance and mimicking her work. I am ‘playing’ at Sappho. I believe the beauty of her work is enough; and I hope to share it with others and encourage them to re-create it themselves.

All that being said, I made my fair share of mistakes. I had a ton of issues making different lyres. Bending wood/ other materials was a consistent problem for me in lyre building, as was my final design shape (my final lyre looks more like a lyra than a barbitos). I had issues sourcing materials, and had to compromise on my final lyre by using a turtle shell, rather than a tortoise shell. This lead to its own issues and challenges. I am by no means a skilled craftsman, and my inexperience lead to a lot of mistakes. I am very lucky I still have all my fingers after building several prototypes and my final lyre. I’m also not a great videographer, which is clear from my many videos of my project and process.

My biggest issue in this whole project is that I would often not refer back to my source material as often as I should have – which resulted in my final lyre being the wrong shape, and essentially looking like a different type of instrument (a good way to conceptualize this is that it’s as if I was trying to build a bass guitar, and I have an instrument that sounds like a bass guitar, but looks more like a really big guitar, rather than a bass one). I made the errors of someone unfamiliar with this sort of research and execution, which I am. Though I am fortune in that I did succeed, I have a final lyre which looks cool, and a functional website to showcase my platform.

I also want to make it clear that whatever success I did have is due to the tremendously skilled people that helped me throughout this entire process. I was really lucky to have amazing people help me (Such as Stefan Hagel, Michael Girbal, the creators of Lyreavlos, Sententiae Antiquae, my advisors, my parents, different technology experts and the wood shop technician at my college, to say nothing of all my friends and family who encouraged me). Overall, I was challenged by my absolute lack of knowledge and experience but I never let that hold me back. That doesn’t mean that I was successful or courageous, I just had a good idea which I felt could back up my lack of know-how. How well I executed that is up to debate, but I’m proud of the work I did. I truly hope other people can enjoy it.8D7E63DA-DC37-448C-BBD6-7DBEEEBB7949

Reading (and Performing) Tragedy Online

Editor’s note: This is a short post from Paul O’Mahony of Out of Chaos Theatre (and many other projects) explaining the background and inspiration for Greek Tragedy Readings in partnership with the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos SocietyPlease join us Wednesdays at 3PM EST for additional readings.)

Life is pretty strange at the moment. To be honest, we wouldn’t have been going out that much anyway, owing to our second daughter being born just 2 months ago and our lack of sleep not being conducive to extensive exploration of the outside world.

But I like to think (and maybe I’m just kidding myself) that we would at least have ventured out for more than just our weekly supermarket trip. We were all set for celebrating new life, but now it feels even more precious and, indeed, precarious. We’re aware how fortunate we are to be able to stay inside and limit our contact while friends all over the world face significant peril.

Unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one. Life can often be solitary for an actor. Of course there are bouts of unemployment but even when acting in a play we’ll spend a significant amount of time working things out by ourselves: we learn and interpret lines, discover actions, develop a character’s playlist (and whatever exercises may form our particular technique), all (at least in part) on our own.

But we always get to share the result of that work with our fellow creative teammates. We are accustomed to working extremely closely (physically and emotionally) with others – our fellow cast members, directors, choreographers, stage managers, technical team, accent coaches, etc. For now, this traditional network of people meeting to create has been placed on hold. So how can we respond?

I suggested to Lanah at the Center for Hellenic Studies that we could start running readings of tragedy once a week to create opportunities for actors and academics to meet online and discover something together. I’ve been passionate about tragedy and its enduring impact since my time as a student, and I’ve devoted a significant portion of my career to exploring the connections between the ancient and modern worlds.

I was really delighted to hear from the CHS that Joel Christensen had been in touch with a similar proposal – and so our first international collaboration has been created. Last week we read scenes from Helen. This week it’s Sophocles’ Philoctetes (a man who knows a lot about isolation). I’ll be providing actors and directors to offer readings and their creative responses – I hope we’ll start to find new ways to use the medium to our advantage as I bring more artists into this project. Check out the CHS homepage for the livestream.

I’m especially intrigued to discover how we’ll use a computer screen as our ’empty space’. I also hope it can provide a fascinating resource for students and even a supportive testing ground for new translations of tragedy. We’ll be meeting at 3pm ET (which works well for my 2 month old), every Wednesday until we tell you otherwise. I hope you’re all staying safe and well.

Paul

Editor’s Note: The Second Reading went pretty well, check it out here:

 

Actors included: Tim Delap, Evelyn Miller,  and Jack Whitam with commentary by Norman Sandridge from Howard University.