Literature as Performance

7 July 2013

Dedicated to "Literature as Performance", the conference will explore selected literary texts in the Greek language which were performed in a number of theatrical, liturgical or generally ritual contexts during the Greco-Roman, Byzantine, and Modern Greek periods.

Texts when studied as texts deprive us of insight into the qualities they possess if performed. Most texts were in fact composed to be performed rather than read (in the modern sense). Their successive performance (or 're-performance') was integral to their reception. Hence the effort to place texts in the setting of their reception may restore qualities overlooked by scholarship limited to approaching works as written records.

The present conference will be concerned with literature as performance with emphasis on two aspects: first, the method of composition of these 'texts', and second, their performative context (theatrical, liturgical or generally ritual) which arguably shaped the text itself. Specifically, we have chosen the topic and category of the lament, which is abundantly represented in ancient Greek, Byzantine and Modern Greek literature and folk-song.

The lament as a device for expressing grief for a misfortune or the loss of someone or something may be encountered in secular as well as ecclesiastical literature of almost all genres. Our aim is to explore themes, imagery and rhythmical patterns employed in laments, or lament elements embedded in other types of narrative. The continuous deployment of distinct elements in the lament throughout the literature composed in Greek has been studied by Margaret Alexiou in her pioneering The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, dealing with the period from antiquity to modern times. Apart from 'modern' folk-song, Greek literature proper from the 20th century affords rich examples of the lament which may be investigated in the light of the diachronic tradition and with emphasis on the aspects of composition and (re)performance.

George Babiniotis, Professor of Linguistics and ex-rector of the University of Athens and President of the Society for the Promotion of Education and Learning (Φιλεκπαιδευτική Εταιρεία), as well as Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University and Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, D.C., Harvard University, will be the two main conveners.


Friday 5th July, 21.00, The Cycle of Life. A Theatrical and Musical Performance

Literary texts – from Homer to Cavafy – will be staged: the performance will attempt a fresh and constructive reading of texts and figures ranging from Persephone to the Trojan Women, and from the Lament for Christ to folk songs and Modern Greek poetry. The Musical Society of the Arsakeia-Tositseia Schools, presents a performance revolving around the dialogue of life and death and combining poetry with the songs of Manos Hadjidakis.

Sunday 7th July, 21.00, The Epirot "Moirologia" (Laments): From the Human Voices to the Musical Instruments

Instrumental "moirologia" and polyphonic songs (laments) from Epirus (Regions of Pogoni, Parakalamos, Deropolis) Performed by the polyphonic vocal ensemble "Chaonia", the choir "Polyphono" of the Museum of Greek Folk Musical Instruments and the Thomas Lolis' Epirot intrumental ensemble ("kompania") Director: Alexandros Lambridis • Repertory selection: Lambros Liavas

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