Fellows Update – Emotion in Action: Thucydides and the Tragic Chorus

Emotion in Action: Thucydides and the Tragic Chorus, by Eirene Visvardi

Eirene Visvardi
The CHS Team is happy to share some exciting news from former Fellow Eirene Visvardi (Wesleyan University). Professor Visvardi has just published her latest book, Emotion in Action: Thucydides and the Tragic Chorus, through Brill. Eirene Visvardi worked on this manuscript during her time at the Center in 2012.
Emotion in Action: Thucydides and the Tragic Chorus offers a new approach to the tragic chorus by examining how certain choruses ‘act’ on their shared feelings. Eirene Visvardi redefines choral action, analyzes choruses that enact fear and pity, and juxtaposes them to the Athenian dêmos in Thucydides’ History. Considered together, these texts undermine the sharp divide between emotion and reason and address a preoccupation that emerges as central in Athenian life: how to channel the motivational power of collective emotion into judicious action and render it conducive to cohesion and collective prosperity. Through their performance of emotion, tragic choruses raise the question of which collective voices deserve a hearing in the institutions of the polis and suggest diverse ways to envision passionate judgment and action.
Eirene Visvardi (PhD Stanford University) is Assistant Professor of Classical Studies at Wesleyan University. Before that she held a two-year joint fellowship in the departments of Classical Studies and Theater Arts at Brandeis University. Her research interests include the conception and interpretation of emotional experience in Greek drama and philosophy of the classical period, modern theories of the emotions, Greek lyric poetry, ancient aesthetics, questions of genre, and performance and political theory.

Alma Tadema, “A Pyrrhic Dance”
Alma Tadema, “A Pyrrhic Dance”

While at the CHS, Eirene Visvardi conducted research on the quintessential tragic emotions from the perspective of the tragic chorus – the element that Aristotle essentially ignored. She argues that the choral discourse of pity and fear problematizes and expands the emotional discourses that pervade the public spaces of Athenian civic life (esp. the political assembly as we know it from Thucydides and the courts of the orators) and suggests new ways to envision and practice social and political participation. Read more on her research at the CHS Research Bulletin. You can watch her presentation at the CHS Symposium, entitled “Collective Emotion in Thucydides,” here:

Research Symposium: Eirene Visvardi from Hellenic Studies on Vimeo.

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