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Iphigenia(s): War, Sacrifice, and Politics in Performance

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number IDSEM-UG1787
Section 001
Instructor Kristin Horton, Laura Slatkin
Days Tue
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement HUM, PREMOD


A war must be fought: or must it? The Greek army must sail: or must it? A daughter's sacrifice is required: or is it? Patriotism motivates war: or does it? Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis is a brilliant, vertiginous investigation into the intersection of war, sacrifice, politics, and kinship. Through Euripides, we see how a marriage might become a sacrifice; how motives shift over time; how conflicts in one moment are reframed in another —this play is a stunning inquiry into the tricky ways of reason and passion. We will begin with Iphigenia in Aulis and the tradition it mobilizes—that Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks, is compelled to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia in order to ensure a fair wind for the sailing of the Greek expedition against Troy. Behind this play are centuries of profound, complex thinking about reasons for war, the nature of heroism, the rhetorics of patriotism, the obligations of kinship, the logic of marriage. From the Iliad through the efllorescence of tragedy in Athenian state theater, to early modern and 21st century adaptations and transformations, poets and playwrights have found Iphigenia "good to think with." Our classes will combine critical inquiry into Euripides' Iphigenia in Aulis and other ancient and modern treatments of the Iphigenia myth, together with experiments in interpretation—including acting workshops and staging exercises. Students need no background in acting, theater, or ancient literature, but do need critical energy and discipline. Authors we will read, in addition to Euripides, will include Homer, Aeschylus, Thucydides,and Aristotle; in the second half of the semester, we will explore modern re-imaginings of Iphigenia (e.g. Racine's Iphigénie ) and those by contemporary playwrights (among them: Ellen McLaughlin, Caridad Svich, Charles Mee).

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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