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Sophocles’ lying tale: a study of dolos and fiction in the Philoctetes

Taousiani, A.; (2011) Sophocles’ lying tale: a study of dolos and fiction in the Philoctetes. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

For 5th century Athens, deceit is a contemporary reality; it is also a problem. When Athens thought about deception, which was not often, it applied to it a double standard: to deceive is condemnable in theory, expedient in practice. How does, however, this double standard translate to a genre which neither theorizes nor practises, but invites interpretation of events that are in themselves both multidimensional and -indeed-fictional? (Introduction and Chapter 1). This thesis examines the presentation and interpretation of deceit in a late 5th century tragic context. Sophocles’ Philoctetes is the focus of this enquiry because of deceit’s varied character in the play, and because of its Sophoclean authorship, with all its associations -both in ancient and in modern contexts- of idealism and traditionalism. My thesis argues that polarizations regarding deceit, Philoctetes and its author circumscribe our understanding of all. In terms of deception, instead of a simple condemnation, the play confronts its audience with a misconceived and mishandled deceit, whose limitations are in place precisely to leave space for a deceit that can be structurally, rhetorically and morally appropriate (Chapters 2, 3, 4). At the same time, the failed deceit of the Philoctetes or ‘play within a play’ recreates the viewing experience for the theatre audience, and offers them different models of spectatorship to ponder on when negotiating their own critical approach to performance (Chapter 5). In terms of the Philoctetes, deceit emerges as the overarching element that allows the play to comment on a number of topical and diachronic concerns of 5th century Athens such as morality, rhetoric, friendship, and performative fiction. By revisiting deceit alongside those issues, I hope to demonstrate the multifaceted character of deceit itself, its legitimate position in Athenian life and (tragic) fiction, and the very pragmatic need for its conditioning. Finally in terms of its author, my interpretation of the play’s deceit challenges the conventional perception of Sophocles as a traditional idealist, and replaces it with an (Euripidean) image of a realist and a thinker engaged with the intellectual trends and socio-political demands of his time. I hope that my reading will lead to a new appreciation of the many dimensions of dolos, the Philoctetes, and its dramatist.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Sophocles’ lying tale: a study of dolos and fiction in the Philoctetes
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Greek and Latin

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