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Chloe Bray


The Representation of Edge-Space in Ancient Greek Tragedy

Supervised by: Dr Jon Hesk and Prof. Jason K├Ânig

This thesis examines the role of topographical areas in Greek tragedy which are typically characterised as liminal or marginal. In order to move away from previous discussion of such places and to reassess the idea of what it means in Greek tragedy to be situated at or near an “edge”, I have coined the term “edge-space”. Applying a diverse range of approaches from modern literary criticism, anthropology, and philosophy, this study will identify themes in the representation of edge-spaces such as the sea, forests, mountains, and meadows. In light of ancient evidence outside tragedy, I address the interaction between the tragic setting and the wider cultural knowledge of certain areas. I argue that this knowledge, whether acquired intertextually or as part of the historic use and experience of an area (as opposed to its often misleadingly binary character as presented in modern structural interpretations), could inform the audience of tragedy to a setting’s wider significance and imbue a scene with hidden meaning. In this way, edge-space could operate as a foreboding symbol, connecting the represented space with numerous conceptual spaces which build dramatic tension and allow the tragedian to manipulate audience expectations. For example, while the liminality of the sea has often been recognised in terms of its conceptual proximity to the underworld and its wildness as the abode of sea-monsters, in Iphigenia among the Taurians Euripides draws more on the connectivity of the edge-space than its separateness. In frequent descriptions of the sea as a pathway, and evocative use of whirlpool imagery,the boundlessness of the sea could represent the circularity and endlessness of violence in the mythology of the house of Atreus. Not only can such understandings provide new readings of the tragedies and new insights into the use of space as a literary device; they can shed light on the ancient understanding of space in Greek culture more generally.

Academic biography and research interests

Before beginning doctoral research at St Andrews, I completed a BA(Hons) in 2012, with a dissertation on the Near Eastern and Bronze Age Mediterranean origins of Artemis, and a MA(Distinction) in Classics in 2014 with a thesis on Egyptian, Near Eastern, and ancient Greek lunar mythologies, both at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Over the course of my studies I have been fascinated in the concept of liminality, which seems to have become a cover-all term for various kinds of complex phenomena in ancient culture. My doctoral thesis is an attempt to better understand how liminality works in wilderness spaces in Greek tragedy. I am interested in Greek literature of and preceding the fifth century BC, particularly tragedy and epic, as well as philology.