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Narrative strategies: Communication in the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles

Goward, Barbara Louise; (1994) Narrative strategies: Communication in the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis explores narrative theories and their application to ancient tragedy. It is divided into three sections: SECTION I argues that it is valid to apply narrative theory to drama. It then questions the view that narrative and drama should be understood as polarised modes of communication ("showing" versus "telling", in twentieth century terms). It argues for intrinsic advantages in message narrative. All narratives in tragic thesis are then divided into two temporal categories (1) short-range narratives, including the "messenger speech" and (2) longer range narratives of portent, prophecy, dream and curse (PPDCs). Within the episodes of tragedy, a suspenseful structure is often built up by a juxtaposition of (1) and (2). SECTION II: AESCHYLUS' surviving work is fluid in structure. However, he shows a tendency to create suspense by the build-up of deliberate delays and deceits together with an ambiguous dream or prophecy. These narrative strategies culminate in a central "programmatic" scene in which prophetic narratives are delivered and the structure of the whole work revealed. Anagnorisis often occurs out of these scenes. A discussion of Persae 249-622 follows, then the Shield scene from Septem, the Cassandra scene from Agamemnon and the Io scene from Prometheus Bound are taken as examples of central narrative scenes. Two short narratives from Septem and Supplices are discussed. SECTION III: SOPHOCLES' narratives seem as much concerned to cheat expectation as to fulfil it. Dolos is an important concept in the ancient world which also describes the slippery condition of narrative. Greimas' actantial theory is brought to bear on Sophocles' doloi, particularly in Ajax. Sophocles deviates from traditional myth by introducing false narratives and creating "narrative loops". These extensions, observed in Ajax. Trach. and Phil., subvert expectation and explore new areas. The manifold doloi of Electra are analysed.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Narrative strategies: Communication in the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Aeschylus; Communication; Plays; Sophocles
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098660
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