Slater, Niall W. und Bernhard Zimmermann, hrsg.
Intertextualitaet in der griechisch-roemischen Komoedie.
Beitraege zum antiken Drama und seiner Rezeption Band 2.
Stuttgart M und P, Verl. fuer Wiss. und Forschung, 1993.
pp. xvii and 261
Reviewed by C.W. Marshall,
Department of Classics
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1W5, Canada.
The title of this book is misleading in three ways. First, all but sixty of its pages are in English (the rest comprising one article in French, one in German, and some German and Italian book reviews). Second, the book is not only concerned with comedy: while half the articles are the proceedings from a conference held at Emory in Atlanta entitled 'Performance Criticism of Greek Comedy' (April 12-13, 1991), three of the remaining eight pieces are concerned exclusively with tragedy. Third, it is not 'Intertextualitaet' per se that is being applied to the ancient texts, except in the vaguest sense of the word. Slater and Zimmermann do not present a series of deconstructivist readings as might be expected. The essays do however represent a concerted effort (set out by Slater) to establish performance criticism more firmly in contemporary approaches to ancient comedy. In this the book is successful.
Slater's apologia ('From Ancient Performance to New Historicism' 1-13) sets out the programme of the conference and the book. What Slater seeks is 'the recovery of performable meaning' (8; italics in original). This is the measure by which the material is to be judged. Without dealing with specific texts, Slater inserts himself on the side of Wiles (G&R 34 (1987) 136-51) against Goldhill (G&R 36 (1989) 172-82) arguing clearly for a 'hierarchy in interpretation' (9) which privileges the audience at the original performance. The recovery of performable meaning, then, is at direct odds with what intertextuality would customarily invoke. The distinction is necessary since the title appropriates a term from the semiological side to further Slater's performance- based agenda. Recently, David Wiles's The Masks of Menander (which is given a review in this book) has sought a middle ground between the two positions.
Of the papers in the volume, the one which comes closest to Slater's stated aim of the recovery of performable meaning is by Wiles ('The Seven Gates of Aeschylus' 180-94). Wiles bypasses the semiotic work that has been done on the play and focusses on staging. Taplin, in The Stagecraft of Aeschylus (OUP 1977), has argued for a largely static Seven Against Thebes. Wiles revises one of Taplin's assumptions and produces an interpretation that is dynamic, dramatic, and considerably less problematical.
Following Slater's introduction are four pairs of essays from the conference. W. G. Arnott ('Comic Openings' 14-32) examines how Aristophanes and Menander approach the task of grabbing and holding the attention of their audience while still introducing elements of the story to follow. He focusses in particular on the openings of Acharnians and Frogs which often may seem irrelevant to the subsequent action. With Menander, he can only generalize, but a contrast in style is noted. The response by N. Felsin-Rubin ('Getting It' 33-38) provides a semiotic tilt to the material which perhaps seems slightly strained due to the limited space available to her.
B. Zimmermann ('Comedy's Criticism of Music' 39-50; response 51-54) examines Pherecrates' Chiron fr. 155 PCG in which a personified Music complains how she has been (sexually) maltreated by contemporary musical innovators. He then discusses related criticism in Aristophanes. This creates what Zimmermann calls 'the Aristophanic paradox' (48): that Aristophanes can at once criticize contemporary music and appropriate it for his own purposes. This maintenance of critical distance (which Linda Hutcheon, for example in A Theory of Parody (Routledge, 1985), believes is necessary for any parody) is really more interesting than troublesome. The response deals largely with Platonic musical criticism, and its relation to Aristophanes.
A. C. Scafuro ('Staging Entrapment: On the Boundaries of the Law in Plautus' Persa' 55-77; response 78-80) begins by establishing a type of scene in new comedy ('the entrapment scene') which is found to have precedent in the Greek orators, and exists in three of Plautus' works. She then examines in detail Persa IV 4, 'by far the most complicated and sophisticated' (64) of these scenes. She distinguishes a number of 'scripts' that are at work in the entrapment, each of which is subverted in some way by the proceedings. At work are Toxilus' straightforward meta- theatrical script for the deception, a 'cultural script' (64) about the nature of public declarations of identity, a Euripidean script modelled on the recognition scene at Iphigeneia among the Taurians 492-506, and a 'script of dramatic protocol' (70) which is Plautus' importation to the pre-existing story. The response explicitly draws these together towards the recovery of performable meaning.
J. Henderson ('Translating Aristophanes for Performance' 81-91) argues for what he calls a 'translation for theatricality', meaning that even a translation intended primarily for a readership should be aimed at an audience, 'even if that means sacrificing historical accuracy for intelligibility, style or humor' (84). His examples argue for 'Godzilla' (85) 'Medicare' (86) and 'Model T' (87) in his translations, but his borders remain largely subjective. Lamachos and Telephos remain Greek, but it is suggested the Peloponnesian War become the Gulf War in Acharnians. Paired with this is M. Evenden's account of his rehearsed reading of Henderson's Acharnians ('The Obscure, the Obscene, and the Pointed: Staging Problems in Aristophanes of The Quest for the Naive Dildo' 92-101) which is telling. He concludes he 'still found it easier (or more urgent) to stage the problems rather than, simply, the play' (101). This inverts Zimmermann's paradox: how is Aristophanes to be staged with reverence for the text while maintaining sufficient distance so the director, translator, and performers avoid the perils of obscurity and obscenity? Another essay, not from the conference, walks the same line. J. Maitland ('Tripping the Light Fantastic: Treading the Gender Boundaries in Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae' 212-21) discusses a 1991 Australian production and how contemporary gender politics interact with the ancient ones.
J. Redondo's paper ('La poesie populaire grecque et les Guepes d'Aristophane' 102-21) provides a valuable examination of Aristophanes' use of skolia in Wasps, demonstrating that comedy appropriated so-called 'low culture' as well as the 'high culture' or tragedy. Of the other essays, three are on New Comedy. J. Whitehorne ('The Rapist's Disguise in Menander's Eunuchus' 122-32) explores the tensions involved in the double plot. J. A. Barsby ('Problems of Adaptation in the Eunuchus of Terence' 160-79) extrapolates on the nature of Terence's two source-plays, the Eunuchus and Kolax of Menander. His 'micro-analysis' essentially applies Occam's razor to a number of staging difficulties. C. Riedweg ('Menander in Rom - Beobachtungen zu Caecilius Statius Plocium fr. 1 (136-53 Guardi)' 133-59) provides a detailed exegesis of the Caecilius Statius fragment.
Of the papers on tragedy, S. Halliwell ('The Functions and Aesthetics of the Greek Tragic Mask' 195-211) emphasises the necessity of excising Brecht's notion of the Verfremdungseffekt. What remains is a minimalist mask, 'one functioning component of an actor's appearance' (209). M. McDonald and K. MacKinnon ('Cacoyannis vs. Euripides: from Tragedy to Melodrama' 222-34) present Cacoyannis almost as an improver of Euripides, and are perhaps too attached to American television melodrama of the eighties than Greek equivalents contemporary with the production of the films.
The book as a whole is a mixed bag. The papers are of varying quality but do form an interesting and worthwhile step towards the more general application of performance theory to ancient theatre. Slater and Zimmermann's collection shows that the recovery of performable meaning is possible, and they show it with material that is often resistant to such attempts. This points the way for further study.
C. W. Marshall