Kyriaki Demiri: Intertextuality and the ancient Greek drama: when Jelinek meets the past

Teilaspekt der Disseration
(für den Nachwuchsworkshop 2014)

Our suggestion aims at investigating one of the objectives of this workshop, which is the intertextuality in Elfriede Jelinek’s work.
Having as point of departure Elfriede Jelinek’s play Bambiland (2004), a play in which the writer not only practices the intertextuality, but openly relies on The Persians (470 B.C) by Aeschylus, we will approach the question that has haunted us since our first contact with Jelinek’s work: how and to what degree a dramatic text that belongs to the culture of Athens of the 5th century B.C. can serve as an intertext or a role model for a modern literary text, written in 2004?
The first goal of our suggestion is to show why the author has chosen Aeschylus play and how she elaborates the mythical and heroic traditions which form the material of The Persians.
Firstly, we will study the structures of the Greek tragedy in order to show that the true material of it, that is the political thought, provides Jelinek with the cultural and political context that unifies the two plays. Examining The Persians more carefully, we note that it’s a play not only about the premonitions of an empire on the brink of disaster, but mostly about the tragedy of a whole nation, victim of an erratic desire of conquering. Aeschylus seems to supply Jelinek with the key for «a kind of political theory disguised in superstition» 1) and with the framework for a problematic in which the idea that the crime should be punished comes as a leitmotiv. All in all, Jelinek uses The Persians as the pretext not only to narrate a war, but to denude the structures of war.

1) Ismaïl Kadaré, Eschyle ou l’éternel perdant, Librairie Arthème Fayard, Paris, 1988, p. 102 [the translation is made by the author of this text].


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