If the House Would Speak: The House and Greek Tragedy’s Collective Vision


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project offers the first account of the house in ancient Athenian tragedy. Close readings of seven plays from first to last extant—Seven Against Thebes, Persians, Agamemnon, Antigone, Heracles, Bacchae, and Ion—aim to cultivate for modern readers an attentiveness to the house’s mode of dramatic participation. Revealing the house’s persistent presence as more than a backdrop, a renewed sensitivity to the house responds to a critical turn toward the presence of nonhuman things. What the tragic house might ‘say’ or ‘do’ for ancient audiences depended on lived experience with houses—including with houses razed, polluted, or emptied. Modern readers may attune themselves to a dramatic perspective of the tragic house through the unique family structure of the "oikos" at ancient Athens which encompassed house, human members, and possessions. In relation to the community of the "oikos", newly charted dramatic trajectories for the house reveal the power of nonhuman things to influence human characters and audiences, precipitating a new understanding of Greek tragedy as a genre.