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January 6, 2011

A chorus of old men

Calvin News:

His long study of the choruses in Greek drama has led Umit Dhuga to the following question: “Why are so many choruses composed of men who limp and complain about their decrepitude?” he asks,

Dhuga, a Calvin professor of classical languages, has recently published a new book, Choral Identity and the Chorus of Elders in Greek Tragedy (Lexington Books) in which he rehabilitates the reputation of one particular species of Greek chorister: old men.

Old male choruses are thought by scholars to serve a merely decorative, or even comic, function in ancient Greek drama, Dhuga says: “The older chorus is marginal by mere fact of its old age. In other words, I think that scholars for too long have conflated the idea of social marginality with dramatic marginality—which, in some ways, I think, shows how scholars can be rather myopic.”

The cure for this nearsightedness, Dhuga believes, is a less-modern point of view, “One had to wonder what preconceptions an ancient Athenian had when he saw a chorus of old men walk on the stage.”

What a Greek theatergoer saw in an old, male chorus was probably wiser and more central to the dramatic action than has been supposed, Dhuga argues: “As early as Homer—even earlier—old men are traditional repositories of wisdom …It would stand to reason that our choruses of old men might also play advising roles.”

Dhuga hopes his scholarship will enhance understanding of the role of the chorus in Greek tragedy. The choral tradition was important not only to the theater of the period, but also to the ceremonies of everyday life. “By the time your average male citizen was 35, he would have experienced hundreds of choruses,” he said. Greek youth were schooled in choral fundamentals such as singing, dancing, narrating, and acting. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at January 6, 2011 9:10 PM

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