(BEING CONTINUED FROM 5/09/17)
Antiquity at the margins: rebetes and rebetika, ‘ancient’ and modern
With their insalubrious social connotations, Ottoman musical features, and low-browcontent, rebetika might appear an unlikely candidate for mention in the same breath asthe revered culture of ancient Greece. And yet the seemingly sacrilegious conjugationof rebetika with Greek antiquity was repeatedly contrived in a variety of formsthroughout the twentieth century by exponents of the genre and commentators on it,unlettered and educated alike, to the extent that reference to antiquity periodicallybecame almost de rigueur in the discussion of rebetika. A similar fascination alsoregularly exercised the ingenuity of literary poets, fiction writers, translators, stagedirectors and graphic artists.This paper surveys and discusses a range of the resultant confections,including: Markos Vamvakaris’s pipe-dreams of gods and ancient heroes; the claimsof classical resonances in the content and form of rebetika verses; the representationof rebetika as latter-day skolia; their use in modern productions of ancient theatre; thealleged ancient pedigree of rebetika instruments and dances; and the rebranding ofancient celebrities, such as the insouciant Hippocleides of Athens (Hdt.6.129), asarchetypal rebetes.Some of these conceits are plainly whimsical or scurrilous, but others areintensely earnest and designed to serve a range of strategies for either validatingmodernity via a glorious ancestry, or for cutting antiquity down to size and subvertingits modern veneration by revealing a grubby underside. This paper explores theunderlying contestations of cultural authority, the abiding fixation with etymology,and the percolation of classical knowledge to the unschooled.
A harmonious co-existence? Antiquity and Christianity innineteenth-century Greece
The paper explores the complex relation of the concepts “Hellenism” and“Christianity” in modern Greece by primarily focusing on discursive shifts and connotative processes that surround the emergence and articulation of the “hellenochristiancivilization.” It discusses the ways Byzantine controversies about theAncient Greek thought were re-interpreted and re-conceptualized in the modern Greekcontext, mainly in the second half of the nineteenth century. The paper defines thereading of ancient Greek philosophy as of primary importance in a set of culturalpolitics that aimed at the re-conciliation of pagan thought and Christian metaphysicsand at the formation of a canon that ruled their relation. The interest lies upon theimage of three Church Fathers of the 4th century, known as the “Three Hierarchs”, asboth ideal readers of the ancients and as gate-keepers of Christian Orthodoxy. In thisvein, the paper discusses the ways eleventh century disputes and polemics over theplace of ancient thought in the curriculum of Byzantine (Christian) education reemergedin the nineteenth century. The “Three Hierarchs” became re-interpreted as“ideal types” of the so called “harmonious co-existence” between Ancient Greece andOrthodox Christianity. The paper also discusses how this particular reading ofpatristic scholarship contributed to the institutionalization of an official “schoolholiday” in honor of the “Three Hierarchs” in modern Greece. Main argument of thepaper is that critical aspects of the Greek national narrative lie upon constantconceptual metamorphoses that incorporate older symbolic capital in a new settingand make possible the close intersection of ethnicity and religion. In this context, notonly Byzantium stands as the critical link between Ancient and Modern Greece butHellenism and Christianity are interpreted within the context of a “harmonious coexistence”.
Derealizations of the Ideal: Walcott Encounters Seferis
In Dream Nation (1996) I had argued that Greek modernity emerged from and wassubjected to a condition, fostered by colonialist Europe, that I called the “colonizationof the ideal” – the ideal, of course, signified by Greek antiquity. I reconsider thisnotion and re-evaluate its heuristic merit by examining the close relation of thepoetics of George Seferis and the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott. Not only doesWalcott seem to understand the problematic that Seferis was laboring under butdirectly addresses, in poetic form, the predicament of postcolonial Caribbean througha critical reading of Seferis’ own Neohellenic modernist predicament. I focus on acouple of poems by Walcott that counter Seferis’ Mythistorema explicitly, as well asthe grand opus Omeros, which is a magnified Mythistorema from a Caribbeanstandpoint. The issue at hand is not only that a postcolonial poet determines hisresponse to colonial Europe through a remythification of Greek antiquity, but evenmore how he mediates this remythification through a poetic encounter with Greekmodernity. Walcott is known for coining the term “Afro-Greeks”; what’s underresearchedin regard to this phrasing is how it requires, in his poetics, an assessmentof Modern Greeks.
Matthew Gumpert, email@example.com
Realpoetik in Cavafy’s ‘Give Back the Elgin Marbles’
In the traumatic neuroses, Freud writes, “the dream life . . . continually takes thepatient back to the situation of his disaster”; he is “obliged to repeat as a currentexperience what is repressed, instead of, as the physician would prefer to see him do,recollecting it as a fragment of the past” (Beyond the Pleasure-Principle, trans. J.Strachey). This compulsion to repeat as a current experience, instead of recollecting it as a fragment of the past, is a defining feature of modern Greek writing in itsdreams of classical antiquity. I propose to examine, as a test case, two pieces of proseon the subject of the Parthenon Marbles. Writings on the Parthenon Marbles (orparthenography) are, as a rule, dominated by various resuscitative tropes we mayidentify with the lyric mode, and which betray the operations of the repetitioncompulsion.But Cavafy’s “Give Back the Elgin Marbles” is a polemic against thelyrical impulse itself. To the extent that it treats the past as something to recollect, notrepeat, Cavafy’s text may be classified as a piece of realpoetik. Contrast this withSeferis’ elegiac “Foreword” to Bruno d’Agostino’s Monuments of Civilization:Greece (1975) as a textbook case of unregenerate repetition-compulsion.
Greek Present: The inflection of the scholarly self in the nineteenthcentury
“Nachleben”, the German term for “afterlife” that has a part in the dictionary ofReception Studies, was a concept that arose out of a specific constellation within theGerman scholarly attitude towards classical antiquity and its study in the longnineteenth century. There is a concomitant stress, which Classical Studies, orAltertums-wissenschaft, in Germany put on experience and empathy as a heuristicterm in interpreting ancient material and textual evidence. In this context, it is worthlooking at the writings of a range of German scholars that arose from their first-handexperience of Greece as a country they visited. The usual story we tell is either of theGerman philhellenes who never visited Greece (maybe, most famously,Winckelmann); on the archaeologists/historians who came for obvious materialreasons (L. Ross; K.O. Müller); or on the thinkers with a literary and cultural agendawho found their narratives inflected by the place of Greece when travelling there (S.Freud, H. von Hoffmansthal). What this paper wants to explore is the effect ofseeking “presence” on the work and self-presentation of classical scholars that werefirst and foremost philologists and scholars of literature. My examples will include theGerman archaeologist Ernst Curtius, who in the late 1830s spent time there as a tutor,indulging also his own literary aspirations; the German scholar Ulrich vonWilamowitz-Möllendorff, who visited Greece more than once in the 1870s; and theAmerican (though German-trained) philologist Basil Gildersleeve, who visited in the1890s on a journalistic mission.
Exceptionalities and paradigms: ancient and modern Greek cultureand classical reception research
Recent research on the relationships between ancient and modern Greek culture hasprovided a richly informed and often ideologically contested field for debate about thespecificities of texts, topologies and contexts, the continuities and discontinuitieswithin and between cultural, ethnic and national maps and the distinctiveness of theexperiences of Greeks.This talk takes those issues as the basis for an exploration of a possible nextstage in classical receptions research in general. I start from the proposition that Greekstudies can be emblematic rather than exceptional and that they provide a stimulatingmicroscosm rather than a potentially alienating separatism. How can researchers learnfrom these debates to help with the critical evaluation of other areas of research?
What do Greek dimensions of the problems of time, place, language, diaspora,nostalgia and reciprocity suggest about the theoretical frames of classical receptionresearch?How does the case of Greece contribute to understanding of relationships anddisjunctions between scholarly analysis and public and popular modes of experience?Above all, how can understanding of the problematic interactions between ancient andmodern Greece be used to help work through the challenges of a move from nationalto cosmopolitan and global frames of investigation?
National Popular Culture and the Classics: Performances of Greekdrama under Metaxas’ Regime
Although there had been previous uses of ancient spaces as well as quests to establishGreek drama festivals in modern Greece, Kostis Bastias’ initiatives in this direction inthe 1930s were constitutive of a discourse that associated ancient Greek drama withthe popular culture politics of the modern Greek nation. The enhancement of theofficial ancient drama festival in Athens [Εβδοµάδες αρχαίου δράµατος], the first useof the theatre of Epidaurus in the modern era in 1938, the plans for the building of alarge capacity open-air theatre in Athens and the treatment of ancient drama on a parwith Shakespeare, were all linked to Bastias’ idea of popular performance. Thecultural politics introduced by Bastias regarding the performance of ancient dramawill be examined in relation to similar developments in Nazi Germany and fascistItaly, of which Bastias was well aware. The parallels between the three countries canmake manifest that the accommodation of ancient drama within institutional contextsin this period did not just aspire to bring the classics to the people, but it also signifiedan attempt to promote forms of popular theatre which would refer back to ancienttheatre. However, what in Italy and Germany was mostly related to the rise oftotalitarian regimes and the cultural politics implemented in order to forge the senseof community, in Greece became further associated to the official cultural politics ofcontinuity. It is interesting that under Metaxas’ regime this link was supported by aview about popular culture which vanished in the official reception of Greek dramaafter WWII. It was then that ancient drama festivals became demarcated as theuncontested realm of high culture, while any popular culture elements introduced inperformance are still resisted by both critics and audiences as sacrilegious encroachments.
Tassos A. Kaplanis
Άπειροι από Έλληνες: Perceptions of the Hellenes and theConstruction of Ethnic Identity in the Early Modern Greek Period(12th-early 19th c.)
Modern Greek popular culture perceived Hellenes as mythical people withsupernatural powers who did not make part of the core of the Romeic (= EarlyModern Greek) identity. Recent studies have confirmed that the formation of thisRomeic identity must be placed around the time of the Frankish conquest ofConstantinople (1204): the conquest encouraged the growth of an Orthodox Christianidentity (with cultural/ethnic characteristics) that became detached and eventuallyreplaced the political/imperial Byzantine Roman identity. This new ethnic identity, inthe long period from the 13th (when it was decisively formed) to the 19th century (when it was officially replaced by the Hellenic national identity), was not static, butdeveloped in response to major political changes in different times and differentplaces. Thus, it developed differently among Greek-speaking Orthodox populations ofthe Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean basin who lived under Venetian rule andamong those who lived under Ottoman dominion: the former became attached to theWest and associated the fate of Hellenism with Venice, Rome and all ChristianEuropean leaders, while the latter were hostile to an alliance with a Christian Catholicpower and saw in the relatively tolerant Ottoman religious system a guarantee forsecuring their faith and, thus, their identity. Nonetheless they both perceived anddescribed themselves as Romeoi and the major question that has not been adequatelyaddressed so far is where Hellenes came into all this. Although some perceptions ofAntiquity in e.g. Cretan Renaissance literature have already been examined, this paperaims at contributing to the recent debates on the role of the Hellenic past in theformation of Modern Greek identity by the presentation and discussion of the variousappearances and perceptions of Hellenes in Early Modern Greek literature (12th-early19th c.), focusing particularly in texts produced in the Ottoman East.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
SOURCE Re-imagining the Past Antiquity and Modern Greek Culture CONFERENCE