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Economies of Memory in Greek Tragedy

Ceccarelli, P; (2019) Economies of Memory in Greek Tragedy. In: Castagnoli, L and Ceccarelli, P, (eds.) Greek Memories: Theories and Practices. (pp. 93-114). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

This chapter explores the interaction between immaterial memory, the materiality of writing and forms of reciprocity. After a survey of the ways in which tragic playwrights bring memory into play, it focuses on two case studies. In Sophocles’ Ajax social ties and economies of gratitude break down since some of the protagonists refuse to remember: the Atreidae consign to oblivion Ajax’s services to the common Greek cause; Ajax himself is indifferent to Tecmessa’s appeal to remember his social obligations to his next of kin. Their behaviour contrasts with the investment in memory as a prerequisite for reciprocity and justice shown by Tecmessa, Teucer and the chorus. The problem of how to ensure gratitude across time resurfaces in Euripides' Suppliant Women. Whereas Theseus appears willing to trust the Argives’ oral commitment to remember and repay his help in the future, Athena feels called upon to intervene: she insists on a written contract sanctioned by an oath put on record in a Panhellenic sanctuary as the only guarantee of memory and reciprocity, very much in line with the broader developments of writing and the externalisation of memory in the wider socio-political context.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Economies of Memory in Greek Tragedy
ISBN-13: 9781108471725
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/greek-memorie...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Greek tragedy, reciprocity, memory, charis, Euripides, Sophocles
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10055661
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