A Cinematic Vision of Greek Tragedy:

The Euripidean “Trilogy” of Michael Cacoyannis

Organized by Anastasia Bakogianni (University of London) and Charles C. Chiasson (University of Texas at Arlington)

The purpose of this panel is to renew discussion and appreciation of the films based upon Euripidean dramas by the Greek director Michael Cacoyannis—Electra (1961), The Trojan Women (1971), and Iphigenia (1976). These films, arguably the most compelling representations of Greek tragedy in the history of cinema, received critical acclaim at the time of their release, but there has been relatively little critical analysis of the films by scholars familiar with Euripides and the Greek tragic tradition generally; the best of such criticism (including M. McDonald, Euripides in Cinema [1983] and K. MacKinnon, Tragedy into Film [1986]) raises as many questions as it answers. Moreover, new perspectives are now offered by scholars of Reception Studies, who help us see with heightened clarity how modern adaptations of classical works cast light upon both the receiving society and the ancient sources themselves (L. Hardwick, Reception Studies [2003]). Cacoyannis’ films are products of their times, and of the director’s own harsh political experience. Nonetheless, his films remain topical because of the universality of such Euripidean themes as the abuse of political power and the price paid by innocent victims of war fought for questionable objectives—themes that are sadly relevant to recent American military involvement in Iraq.

These remarkably rich works invite both internal criticism (of the films as independent artistic expressions) and external criticism that explores various relationships: a) among the films themselves, as the director’s technique for adapting Euripides to the cinematic medium developed over time; b) between the films and the Euripidean tragedies that inspired them; and c) between the films and events of modern Greek and world history that influenced them. More specific topics of interest that papers for this panel might address include: aesthetic issues such as Cacoyannis’ treatment of the chorus (a notorious difficulty in modern renditions of Greek tragedy), and his use of music and dance with roots in modern Greek culture; political issues such as how modern Greek history and society inform Cacoyannis’ representation of both rulers and the lower classes; and the fascinating question raised by MacKinnon, whether Cacoyannis’ films are as faithful to the distinctive spirit of Euripidean tragedy as the director himself believes.

Abstracts must be received by the APA office by February 1, 2008. Please send two copies of Form D and four copies of an abstract (following the one-page format prescribed in this Newsletter for individual abstracts) to: American Philological Association, University of Pennsylvania, 292 Logan Hall, 249 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia PA 191094-6304. Anonymous abstracts will be reviewed by the panel organizers.