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Title: Pompai : processions in Athenian tragedy
Author: Kavoulaki, Athena
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1996
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This thesis investigates the significance of ritual movements in theatre and society of fifth-century Athens. The focus falls on processional movement, the definitive characteristics of which are drawn from the ancient Greek concept of pompe, i.e. a movement towards a defined destination, involving the conveyance of a ritual symbol (or an object or a person) between specific points of departure and arrival. The social contexts of divine and heroic cult, funerals and weddings prove to be the main occasions for the performance of such processional movements. In the world outside the theatre, processions are shown to be crucial in defining transitions, shaping social relations, and manifesting the action and inviting the attention of the divine. The socio-religious significance of processions is fully appropriated and explored by tragedy. Processional action, recurrently evoked in the tragic plays, proves to be crucial for the articulation of the tragic δρώμενα. This is argued in the collection and analysis of a number of scenes from extant fifth-century tragedy in which processional resonances permeate the action. The interpretation of the scenes in the light of the ritual background which shapes them considerably enhances the understanding and appreciation of the plays as theatrical experience - experience which explores the potential of spatial configurations and visual symbolism, in a context of symbolic communication which is largely defined by participation in the rituals of the community. The thesis argues that the importance of processions in the theatre is inextricably connected with their power - as manifested in the ritual life of the polis - to gather the community and to initiate the process of θεάσασθαι, implicating both active participants and θεαταί in the performed action. Greek tragic theatre builds upon this basic function of processions and activates their power. Thus it also combines their potential to define transitions with the significance of tragic μετάβασις; and with the importance of demarcation of space and transformation of time in the theatre. Ritual experience is activated, reshaped and enlarged, enabling the re-creation and transformation of the experience of the audience. Processions can illuminate the nature of tragedy itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Greek drama (Tragedy) ; Processions in art