Oedipus in the 21st Century: A Myth and its Modern Transformations

Dr Thomas Falkner
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This paper will discuss three recent plays performed in New York which draw directly upon the myth of Oedipus and Sophocles' Oedipus the King: Edward Albee's "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?", Craig Lucas' "Small Tragedy", and the Five Lesbian Brothers' "Oedipus at Palm Springs." The paper will focus on ways in which the playwrights have dislocated the play into modern and postmodern environments, the middle class nature of their respective characters, and the different meanings this produces. Albee's play seeks to find a modern counterpart for the horror of incest in bestiality and a universal hero in a Martin Gray, a successful architect of middle class sensibilities. Lucas' play, which portrays a theatrical group involved in a contemporary production of Oedipus the King, is not only a metatheatrical display but also a study of how true horror (in this case, a past of war crimes and genocide) can be hidden in the midst of "ordinary" people. And the Five Lesbian Brothers' serio-comic treatment of the myth both mainstreams gay/lesbian theatre and experience as it assimilates a story of the search for one's true parents to Sophocles' archetypal myth. These three plays and productions also provide a useful typology of different ways in which the modern theatre draws upon its classical roots.

Keywords: -
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr Thomas Falkner

Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Academic Affairs, McDaniel College

Thomas M. Falkner. A.B. LeMoyne 1969; M.A., Ph.D. SUNY (Buffalo) 1971, 1975. Falkner specializes in Greek and Latin literature, comparative literature, and contemporary reception of the classics. In addition to articles on Latin poetry and Greek tragedy, he is the author of The Poetics of Old Age in Greek Epic, Lyric, and Tragedy (1995) and of the commentary Euripides' Orestes (1984), and co-editor of Old Age in Greek and Latin Literature (1989) and Contextualizing Classics: Ideology, Performance, Dialogue (1999). Among his recent publications is “Scholars vs. Actors: Text and Performance in the Greek Tragic Scholia" in Greek and Roman Actors (Cambridge UP 02), and “Engendering the Tragic Theatês: Pity, Power, and Gender in Sophocles’ Trachiniae” will be published in Pity &Power in Ancient Athens, ed. Rachel Hall Sternberg (Cambridge UP 05).

Falkner served as a faculty member in the Department of Classics Studies at The College of Wooster from 1977 to 2004; he served 1999-2003 as Dean of the Faculty and Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs. He directed the Wooster in Greece Program from 1983 to 1998, taking six groups of Wooster students to study in Greece and Turkey. He has enjoyed six grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, including a year long Fellowship in Residence, and five research leaves from the College.

On July 1, 2004, he became Provost and Dean of the Faculty, and Professor of Classics, at McDaniel College in Maryland. He also serves as Director of the Classics Advisory Service of the American Philological Association.

Ref: H06P0100