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Title: Linguistic studies in Euripides' Electra
Author: van Emde Boas, Evert H.
ISNI:       0000 0003 5664 3120
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Euripides’ Electra has long been one of the playwright’s most controversial works. This book offers a reading of the play concentrating on its language, which is analysed by applying a variety of modern linguistic approaches: conversation analysis, pragmatic theories of speech acts and inference, politeness theory, the study of the interplay of gender and language, paroemiology, and the study of discourse cohesion. The first three chapters argue for the Peasant, Electra and Orestes, respectively, that their linguistic behaviour constitutes a vital part of their characterisation. The Peasant’s (ch. 1) sturdy morality is established by the way his language becomes more forceful when he touches on ethical questions; it is then tested in his conversations with Electra, where his language is suggestive of a conflict between his morals and his desire to please his royal wife. Electra herself (ch. 2) is characterised initially by the inability to communicate successfully with those around her — a disconnect which is suggestive of the fundamental incongruity of her circumstances. This adds a dimension to her motivations, which, as a force driving Electra’s linguistic behaviour, remain highly stable throughout the play up until the matricide. Another consistent feature of Electra’s language is the way it is patterned by her gender. Orestes’ characterisation in the early part of the play is ingeniously kept to a minimum through his sustained disguise. Various aspects of his language, but particularly his use of gnomai, contribute to that disguise, which involves a suppression of emotion, an avoidance of self-reference, and the exertion of control over the flow and topic of his conversation with Electra. We can only interpret a dramatic text if we know what it says, and if we know who says what. In chapter 4, I argue that the linguistic approaches I adopt can also help us in making a determination about textual-critical problems, particularly concerning the issue of speaker-line attribution (two notorious cases are discussed: 671-84 and 959-87). The final two chapters deal with longer speeches. In the messenger scene (ch. 5), Euripides uses linguistic devices to create an ebb and flow of suspense, and to manipulate audience expectation. In the agon (ch. 6), differences in the way Clytemnestra and Electra structure their speeches, particularly their narrationes, reveal much about their different (and fundamentally irreconcilable) viewpoints and approaches.
Supervisor: Allan, William ; Rijksbaron, Albert Sponsor: AHRC ; Corpus Christi College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Hellenic (Classical Greek) literature ; Classical Greek ; Linguistics ; Euripides ; Electra ; Greek Tragedy ; Greek linguistics ; textual criticism