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CALL. 01.03.2016: Violence and the Political in Greek Epic and Tragedy (Panel at SCS 2017) - Toronto



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel (Toronto, Canada)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Amit Shilo (University of California, Santa Barbara) ; Alexander C. Loney (Wheaton College)

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Recent years have seen a renewed critical interest concerning the place of violence in theories of political order. Žižek (2008) has drawn attention to the invisible, “objective violence” undergirding seemingly functional, tolerant political systems; Sloterdijk (2010), taking the Iliad as his starting point, has argued that rage and retribution have long been formative forces in politics, but also constitute “the blind spot of cultural history.” This current interest in violence is not new, rather renewed: an earlier generation (Benjamin and Schmitt, in particular) had argued that violence, not contracts and consent, founds and sustains political and legal order. And yet, much recent scholarship on Greek epic and tragedy has emphasized instead (proto-)democratic values of dissent, debate, difference, and agreement (Ober 1998; Barker 2009; Apfel 2011). We propose a constructive dialogue between theories of political violence and interpretations of Greek epic and tragedy.

The violence of politics and the politics of violence have been central to early Greek literature and thought from its beginning. At the same time, these texts also expose the limits of violence and subject it to more or less explicit critique.

Panelists are especially encouraged to address the relationship of violence, politics, and justice in Greek epic and tragedy in three respects (though not exclusively these three):

  1. Most broadly, how do epic and tragedy represent and critique the various sorts of violence in Greek society? Are some kinds of violence too painful, too difficult to address directly? Can such violence only be viewed obliquely, through myth? What are the connections between tragic performance and the violence a work represents?

  2. How does theology affect the conceptualization and use of violence? Schmitt saw early 20thcentury European political systems operating with “secularized theological concepts” derived from Christian tradition (a theory recently applied to the United States by Paul Kahn [2011]). Given the rather different theological map of early Greece, with its plural competing, emotional, and perhaps unjust divinities, how was violence justified differently?

  3. How should we respond to the way theorists of political violence, like Sloterdijk, Weil (2005), and Girard (1977), use Greek epic and tragedy? Are there ways their interpretations (and, therefore, the theories that they support) should be revised? Or how do we need to revise our own understanding of these texts in light of their readings?

Please send abstracts directly to the SCS and follow the guidelines for individual abstracts by March 1, 2015. Please do not identify yourself anywhere in the abstract, as submissions will be blind refereed.

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