Antigone and Dionysus in ’69: When Performance Meets Rebellion

Postgraduate Thesis uoadl:2874980 419 Read counter

Κατεύθυνση Αγγλόφωνη Λογοτεχνία και Πολιτισμός
Library of the School of Philosophy
Deposit date:
Ploumaki Eleftheria
Supervisors info:
Μπλατάνης Κωνσταντίνος, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής, Αγγλική Γλώσσα και Φιλολογία, Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστημίο Αθηνών.
Γερμανού Μάρω, Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Γλώσσα και Φιλολογία, Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστημίο Αθηνών.
Καραβαντά Ασημίνα, Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια, Αγγλική Γλώσσα και Φιλολογία, Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστημίο Αθηνών.
Original Title:
Antigone and Dionysus in ’69: When Performance Meets Rebellion
Translated title:
Antigone and Dionysus in ’69: When Performance Meets Rebellion
This thesis will discuss two prominent and highly influential American rewrites of Greek tragedy that have marked the cultural history of the 1960s. Specifically, I will examine The Living Theater’s Antigone (1967), which is an adaptation of Bertlot Brecht’s version of Sophocles’s homonymous tragedy, and The Performance Group’s Dionysus in ’69 (1968), which is a radical reinterpretation of Euripides’s Bacchae. The primary purpose of the current thesis is to thoroughly discuss how The Living Theater and The Performance Group managed to give a contemporary political interpretation to an ancient subject matter and thereby express sensibilities unique not only to the extremely politicized and cultural environment of the sixties, but also to their own revolutionary political convictions. More precisely, great emphasis will be placed on the distinctive ways in which Antigone and Dionysus in ’69 reflect but also reinforce and contribute primarily to the vehement anti-war movement which arose to oppose U.S. government’s extensive military intervention in Vietnam.
By attending to larger historical, social, cultural but mostly political events of the decade during which both plays were first performed, this thesis will examine the possible interrelations between these events and the experimentation these two theater groups undertook in that particular historical moment. More to the point, the thesis focuses on the spirit and structure of the late sixties in order to discuss its possible impact on The Living Theater and The Performance Group’s Antigone and Dionysus in ’69 respectively. By examining at length the reasons behind both groups’ choice to revisit these two ancient Greek tragedies, I aim to demonstrate that there are political and aesthetic reasons for their rediscovery in the turbulent decade of the sixties. In particular, I will explore in what ways and to what extent Antigone and Bacchae appear to be a fertile resource for probing issues related to the sociopolitical and cultural context of that time. In the case of The Living Theater, the critical reasons that led Julian Beck and Judith Malina to return towards both the Sophoclean prototype and Bertolt Brecht’s modernist rereading of it will be taken into serious consideration. However, closer attention will be paid to the reasons that led the group to adhere with remarkable fidelity to Brecht’s adaptation. Furthermore, while examining The Living Theater, great emphasis will be given to the group’s revolutionary political agenda, and, specifically, to their anarchist and pacifist beliefs. In this context, I intend to demonstrate that the latter have been embedded in Antigone, while the play itself seems to have been motivated by them. In the case of The Performance Group, the considerable negative criticism that has been leveled against the discrepancy between Richard Schechner’s life and philosophical beliefs is taken into consideration, but I will argue that the critics fail to realize that Schechner, through his work, engages in a counter-hegemonic act, as he performs a role that the Italian Marxist philosopher, Antonio Francesco Gramsci, felt intellectuals had to play.
More than on any other aspect or parameter, this thesis focuses on the exact ways through which Antigone and Dionysus in ’69 manage to promote a revolutionary frame of reference. By exploring the techniques and methods both groups developed to revitalize a tradition of revolt, I will primarily emphasize on the revolutionary potential of these experimental endeavors. Specifically, I intend to demonstrate that The Living Theater and The Performance Group, by means of placing the transformative power of performance, as well as its revolutionary potential, at the forefront, attempt to promote a rebellious, anti-hierarchical and at the same time communal ethos during this period of crisis. My research also intends to shed light on the ways that both groups manage to expand our preconceptions of what theater is or is meant to be.
Main subject category:
Language – Literature
The Living Theater, The Performance Group, Julian Beck, Judith Malina, Richard Schechner, Bertolt Brecht, Antigone, Bacchae, Dionysus in ’69, Sophocles, Euripides, tragedy, 1960s, 1967, 1968, political interpretation, ancient subject matter, anti-war movement, Vietnam, performance, theater, rewrites of Greek tragedy, adaptation, rebellion, experimentation,
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