CADRE: the Centre for Ancient Drama and Its Reception

by Alan H. Sommerstein
Director of CADRE
University of Nottingham

CADRE was founded in 1998, at the suggestion of the then head of Classics at Nottingham, the late Professor Thomas Wiedemann, to provide a framework (in French, un cadre) for the study of all aspects of ancient drama, its reception, and themes related thereto. It now comprises three members of staff — Professor Judith Mossman, Dr Lynn Fotheringham, and myself — and five associate members currently working, as Dr Watson once put it, on three separate continents.

Our research interests — Judith's, Lynn's and mine — cover a wide range within and beyond the field of ancient drama. I have worked in the past on various aspects both of tragedy and of comedy, including their connections with Athenian society and politics, particularly on Aeschylus and Aristophanes. My earliest speciality was the Greek language and its history, and my latest is an area at the meeting-place of literature, law, politics and religion. Judith is a world-recognized scholar in the study of two authors separated widely in time, style and thought: Euripides and Plutarch. Lynn's main interests, so far as ancient drama is concerned, are in rhetoric, performance and reception. She has also worked on Cicero (the main focus of her current research) and on Homer.

CADRE members and associates have numerous projects, great and small, in progress or planned These include an edition with translation of Euripides' Medea, a book on the female voice in tragedy (both by Judith), and a new edition of Aeschylus' plays and fragments for the Loeb Classical Library (by me), Aeschylus being the last major Greek dramatist still without an up-to-date Loeb. These are individual operations; but CADRE also has a major collaborative project nearing completion, and two more about to start.

CADRE's first major project was on the fragmentary plays of Sophocles, which had been rather neglected by scholarship in favour of those of Euripides, probably because on average they are less well attested - a disparity that has increased with the accumulation of papyrus fragments over the last century or so. We held an international conference on the subject in the year of the millennium, and the papers, covering thirteen plays in detail and having something to say about another eighty, were published in 2003 as Shards from Kolonos (Levante Editori, Bari). The other part of the project was an edition (text, translation and commentary) of nine selected plays, to which I contributed The Diners, Troilus, Polyxene, and Hermione, all about Achilles or his son Neoptolemus. Others are being edited by three members of CADRE at a distance: Amy Clark of Miami University, Ohio (Niobe and the two Tyro plays), David Fitzpatrick of the Open University (Tereus), and Tom Talboy, currently of Monterey, California (Phaedra). The volume is expected to be published in 2005 (Oxford: Aris & Phillips).

The Oaths Project
By then I shall have moved into fresh woods and pastures new. For a long time I have been interested in oaths. An oath today is generally seen as being little more than a solemn affirmation or promise — for otherwise nobody would be allowed to take one in a matter of any importance without at least some attempt being made to establish whether (s)he had any actual belief in a God or gods who might punish a breach of the oath. Ancient Greeks seem always to have been conscious of what an oath actually is: to swear is to utter a conditional curse on oneself, praying that one may suffer an evil fate at the hands of a named god or gods if one's statement is not true or one's promise is not kept. And there is a good case for arguing that ancient Greek societies could not have functioned without the oath, and that (for example) one reason why contemporaries were so exercised about the alleged atheism of men like Euripides and Socrates was that for an atheist an oath was meaningless.

There is an even better case for arguing that the subject badly needs to be examined more systematically than it has been in the past: the last decent comprehensive book on ancient Greek oaths, Rudolf Hirzel's Der Eid, is 102 years old. If it is asked why this topic should be the particular concern of a centre for ancient drama, I reply, firstly, that there is probably no Greek drama without oaths in it, and in some of them oaths are crucial, for example, Aeschylus' Oresteia, Euripides' Hippolytus, Aristophanes' Clouds and Lysistrata. Secondly, in drama we have, admittedly in stylised form, what purport to be actual conversations, and we can see some of the contexts in which people might think it appropriate to swear in real life.

So CADRE's next big scheme is a project on oaths in archaic and classical Greece, funded by a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust. It will be kicked off by an international conference to be held at Nottingham from 30 June to 2 July 2004. At the heart of the project, commencing in September 2004 and running for three years, is the creation of an electronic database of all references to oaths in literary texts and inscriptions from, or about, the archaic and classical periods, collated by two research fellows. There will also be two special doctoral studentships. In addition to the database, the project should produce two books: one based on the conference, provisionally entitled Horkos, and the second, drawing on the database, about the nature and importance of oaths in the Greek world, primarily written by me and the two research fellows.

Performing Masculinity
A second project, led by Judith Mossman, aims to produce a series of studies on masculinity in ancient drama and in classically-influenced drama. There has been a vast volume of work on women in drama, much of which is theoretically very sophisticated; but much less on men (the most recent is E.M. Blaiklock's The Male Characters in Euripides, published in 1952), even though there is a widespread consensus among those who have studied women in drama that men, and not women, may be the true subject. Studying men directly in the light of gender-based criticism is not going backwards, but applying techniques honed through the study of women to that of men.

There are a wide range of possible variations on this general theme: men's image of themselves; different modes and ideals of masculinity; problems presented by masculine behaviour; studies of individual masculine characters; studies on age groups such as ephebes and what it means to become a man, and how that is reflected in drama; how slavery and ethnicity affect masculinity; what happens to the masculinity of the actor playing a female role, and so on. We are interested in comedy as well as tragedy, and Roman texts as well as Greek, and the possibilities of studying the reception of ancient masculinity in later drama widens the field.

Nottingham has already sponsored two volumes of essays on classical masculinity in general: When Men Were Men: Masculinity, Power and Identity in Classical Athens and Thinking Men: Masculinity and its Self-Representation in the Classical Tradition, both edited by Lin Foxhall and John Salmon. We hope to produce more work specifically on masculinity and drama. Some of these new studies will be collections of shorter pieces arising out of a conference and/or seminar series; some might be longer pieces of work. We hope to attract graduate students intending to work on this and related topics, and we would hope that their work might appear as monographs as well as collections of essays.

Of course the Centre will continue to welcome graduate students who wish to work on any aspect of ancient drama and its reception, and will continue to host speakers on other topics as well, but we hope that these initiatives will provide a useful framework for those who are interested in these issues, and will continue to give us a focus for our activities for some time to come.

Alan H. Sommerstein

A word, finally,on how to get yourself involved in CADRE: come and be a postgraduate at Nottingham! If you're on the way to completing an MA, you should be eligible to compete for an AHRB studentship. There will also, as already mentioned, be two studentships specifically for the Oaths project, and the University's School of Humanities, of which Classics forms a part, is offering further postgraduate studentships, as well as fee bursaries for those who miss out.

The Department has an MA course in Greek Drama, to which all the CADRE staff contribute. In addition to specialized modules it contains a dedicated research skills component, and those applying for the course are eligible to compete for AHRB awards under the new Research Preparation Masters scheme

The School of Humanities fee bursaries are available for MA as well as research students — and also for the hybrid "research MA", in which students basically create their own course out of available components and then write a jumbo-size dissertation.

If you want to know more about what CADRE can offer, you are welcome to contact me:

Please make your inquiries as specific as possible. Inquiries about postgraduate opportunities at Nottingham should be made in the first place to the Postgraduate Administrator, Heather Sowter, using the online inquiry form; but do first explore the Department's website, especially the postgraduate opportunities section.