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Why have artists across two millennia felt compelled to revisit the tragedies of the ancient Greeks in order to express anxieties about sexual behaviour and identity, and about violence at both a global and a domestic level?
Through this event, Fiona Macintosh of the University of Oxford and Richard Rowland of the University of York will engage with three women from Athenian drama – Hecuba, Medea and Deianira – all of whom become killers, either of their enemies, their husbands or their children.
Fiona and Richard will explore the ways in which each of these women have been reimagined in the late 20th and 21st centuries: Deianira, the unwitting murderer of her husband Hercules, has been staged as the wife of a general spearheading the ‘war on terror’; Medea has been pictured as an American schoolgirl seduced, made pregnant and then abandoned by her teacher; the front cover of a 2004 translation of Euripides’ Hecuba featured a woman in Abu Ghraib prison, but in the recent Royal Shakespeare Company production of the play, Hecuba sleeps with the commander of her enemies and kills no-one. Fiona and Richard will discuss how we should overcome the difficulties and exploit the possibilities of these remarkable plays, and make them speak today.
Fiona Macintosh is Professor of Classical Reception at the University of Oxford, and Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama. Dr Richard Rowland is Senior Lecturer in Drama and English at the University of York.
Fiona has published widely on Greek drama and its modern reinventions, and her books on the subject include Dying Acts: Death in Ancient Greek and Modern Irish Tragic Drama (Cork, 1994; New York, 1995), Greek Tragedy and the British Theatre, 1660-1914 (Oxford University Press, 2005, co-authored with Edith Hall), and Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus (Cambridge University Press, 2009). Her most recent edited volume is The Oxford Handbook of Greek Drama in the Americas (Oxford University Press 2015).
Richard Rowland has edited early modern plays by, among others, George Chapman, Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe. He has written a book on the Renaissance playwright Thomas Heywood (Ashgate, 2010), and in the same year translated and staged Sophocles’ Trachiniae in the Guildhall at York. His book Killing Hercules: Deianira and the Politics of Domestic Violence, from Sophocles to the War on Terror will appear in September 2016.