Presentation Title

Tragic Arithmetic: The Nature of the Woven in Aeschylus' Agamemnon as Mathematical

Faculty Mentor

Professor Damian Stocking

Start Date

17-11-2018 8:15 AM

End Date

17-11-2018 8:30 AM

Location

C305

Session

Oral 1

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

The Ancient Greek word περόνη (peróne) appears deceptively simple: this Greek noun for pin invokes activities such as weaving on a loom, wearing as a brooch on a toga, or binding together disconnected fabrics. However, it is also a small tool that holds together the crucial, balanced juncture between Oedipus’s ignorance and realization of his prophecy. Anthropologically, the pin is a piece of technology; functionally, it is a violent, blindness-causing weapon. Freudian thought examines the phallic connotations of the pin’s verticality and scholars of gender studies read the pin as a piece of female jewelry. Without denying the significance of these analyses, I want to approach the pin from a different angle: what if it can be read as a mathematical object--an object that, in its piercing and crossing of plot-boundaries, marks a certain linguistic ‘geometry’ and balancing of plot-spaces in Greek tragedies? Its slender verticality unravels and re-plots an entirely new manner of reading and making sense of these texts’ words and worlds. Of course, Greek literature teems with gender, violence, and reflections on being. The Greeks experienced the world mathematically: in their architecture, their poetry, their thought. Aristotle says in his Metaphysics that the chief forms of beauty are order, symmetry, and definiteness—as are apparent in math. My research seeks to investigate the pin in its linguistic and semantic orderings—in the symmetries of grammar it brings to attention—as a way to understand the Greeks and their tragedies, guided by the philosophy of Pythagoras and Edmund Husserl, via close readings of Aeschylus' tragedy the Agamemnon as well as immersion in the abstractions of mathematical and theoretical approaches to interpretation. More broadly, this project designs this peculiar ‘geometry of the tragic’ by using an entirely new method of literary analysis, delving into the mathematical currents that underlie our human existence.

Summary of research results to be presented

Over the course of research for the project, I found that the "mathematical" from my hypothesis is revealed in the Agamemnon through its complex patterns of metaphors. This tragedy is riddled with collapsing binaries: dualities of the masculine and feminine continually collude and collide. Clytemnestra is a woman with a manly-counseling heart (ll. 10-11), a female slayer of the masculine (ll. 1231), a character with an uncanny masculine quality driving her against her husband—the γυνή against the ἀνήρ of her house. The play’s time is measured in doubles, of dual images of the brothers Menelaus and Agamemnon as eagles, where the metaphor collapses even in its mention as the Greek language undoes itself in its saying.

Overall, seeing these numbers and dualities in the results of this research project allows us to explore the tension and ordering of gender and power in interesting ways. Using the concepts of Pythagorean math in terms of "number" to examine the patterns of this imagery exposes the plays’ structure, since the pin, the tapestry, the web are all surfaces of a mathematical object. These examples touch on merely the surface of my investigation, but I hope they serve to suggest that the Greeks’ tragedies—like their early mathematical theories—sought to give measure to the complexities that confound and, at the same time, explain, our world and ourselves.

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Nov 17th, 8:15 AM Nov 17th, 8:30 AM

Tragic Arithmetic: The Nature of the Woven in Aeschylus' Agamemnon as Mathematical

C305

The Ancient Greek word περόνη (peróne) appears deceptively simple: this Greek noun for pin invokes activities such as weaving on a loom, wearing as a brooch on a toga, or binding together disconnected fabrics. However, it is also a small tool that holds together the crucial, balanced juncture between Oedipus’s ignorance and realization of his prophecy. Anthropologically, the pin is a piece of technology; functionally, it is a violent, blindness-causing weapon. Freudian thought examines the phallic connotations of the pin’s verticality and scholars of gender studies read the pin as a piece of female jewelry. Without denying the significance of these analyses, I want to approach the pin from a different angle: what if it can be read as a mathematical object--an object that, in its piercing and crossing of plot-boundaries, marks a certain linguistic ‘geometry’ and balancing of plot-spaces in Greek tragedies? Its slender verticality unravels and re-plots an entirely new manner of reading and making sense of these texts’ words and worlds. Of course, Greek literature teems with gender, violence, and reflections on being. The Greeks experienced the world mathematically: in their architecture, their poetry, their thought. Aristotle says in his Metaphysics that the chief forms of beauty are order, symmetry, and definiteness—as are apparent in math. My research seeks to investigate the pin in its linguistic and semantic orderings—in the symmetries of grammar it brings to attention—as a way to understand the Greeks and their tragedies, guided by the philosophy of Pythagoras and Edmund Husserl, via close readings of Aeschylus' tragedy the Agamemnon as well as immersion in the abstractions of mathematical and theoretical approaches to interpretation. More broadly, this project designs this peculiar ‘geometry of the tragic’ by using an entirely new method of literary analysis, delving into the mathematical currents that underlie our human existence.