A Whole New “Terrain”

Reading through Moran’s Interdisciplinarity, Chapter 5 Science, Space and Nature, as I read about “bioregional authors”, it reminded me of a similar situation I have been in when it comes to reading Greek mythology. Most Ancient Greeks knew the stories of most if not all of the characters in the plays presented to them. However, in today’s society, it usually requires specific research and knowledge about these characters to even get an idea of what is going on. This is very similar to the knowledge on cultural geography and ecology necessary to understand the region-specific writing that Moran mentions.

“John Clare is one example of a ‘bioregional’ author who has been extensively re-evaluated in recent ecocriticism, as a poet whose work cannot be understood without reference to both cultural geography and ecology” (Moran 175). In my 17th century theatre history class, I frequently find myself having to do research on characters as to give the stories context. For example, in Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, it was widely understood by Greek audiences that there was great tension between Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra, after Agamemnon had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia for his own benefit. However the modern reader would not know this without further context explicitly given in the text.

All of these Greek characters have detailed backgrounds, like Cassandra who appears later in the play. Her backstory is that she has been gifted/cursed with the ability of prophecy. She was given this power by Apollo, but after refusing to have his child, he gave her this ability. However, though her prophecies are always true, nobody will ever believe her, and that’s what makes Agamemnon tragic. As she foresees hers and Agamemnon’s own death, no one believes her so she just remains deadly silent. Had it not been for research done on my own, details like this would have slipped by me without context.

Admittedly I find myself reading these plays with an outline on Sparknotes pulled up on my computer.  I feel doing so helps in giving me context to better understand the play. Even my high school English teacher encouraged this, despite him being very old-school. He encouraged reading Sparknotes, especially for Shakespearian literature. He just didn’t want us to rely entirely these outlines.


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