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Title: Animal metaphors and the depiction of female avengers in Attic tragedy
Author: Abbattista, Alessandra
ISNI:       0000 0004 7233 6072
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2018
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In the attempt to enrich classical literary criticism with modern theoretical perspectives, this thesis formulates an interdisciplinary methodological approach to the study of animal metaphors in the tragic depiction of female avengers. Philological and linguistic commentaries on the tragic passages where animals metaphorically occur are not sufficient to determine the effect that Attic dramatists would have provoked in the fifth-century Athenian audience. The thesis identifies the dramatic techniques that Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides deploy to depict vengeful heroines in animal terms, by combining gender studies of the classical world, classical studies of animals and posthumanism. It rejects the anthropocentric and anthropomorphic views of previous classical scholars who have interpreted the animal-woman metaphor in revenge plots as a tragic expression of non-humanity. It argues instead that animal imagery was considered particularly effective to express the human contradictions of female vengeance in the theatre of Dionysus. The thesis investigates the metaphorical employment of the nightingale, the lioness and the snake in the tragic characterisation of women who claim compensation for the injuries suffered within and against their household. Chapter 1 is focused on the image of the nightingale in comparison with tragic heroines, who perform ritual lamentation to incite vengeance. Chapter 2 explores the lioness metaphor in the representation of tragic heroines, who through strength and protectiveness commit vengeance. Chapter 3 examines the metaphorical use of the snake in association with tragic heroines, who plan and inflict vengeance by deceit. Through the reconstruction of the metaphorical metamorphoses enacted by vengeful women into nightingales, lionesses and snakes, the thesis demonstrates that Attic dramatists would have provoked a tragic effect of pathos. Employed as a Dionysiac tool, animal imagery reveals the tragic humanity of avenging heroines whose voice, agency and deception cause nothing but suffering to their family, and inevitably to themselves.
Supervisor: Greenhalgh, Susanne ; McHardy, Fiona ; Deacy, Susan Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Animal metaphors ; female revenge ; ancient Greek tragedy ; Dionysus gender studies ; animal studies ; posthumanism