Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dionysus and his leopard hide


(Wreathed Dionysus)
His figure is modified intensively throughout centuries. The older representations depict him as a bearded mature and strong man, unless he is shown as a baby playing in the warm hug of Hermes, the same hug that brings the mortal souls to the final harbour of Acheron. Late classical types give way to a youthful body, the eternal youth, on the borderline of acceptance, beyond sobriety. And that was to stay in roman statues and mosaics, and be brought out by Caravaggio and others.

Now, the issue goes as follows: How should one deal with the teaching of grim historical periods, within the framework of an introductory course about Greek language and culture, planned for foreigners? I remember well the short but heated discussion that took place in Thessaloniki, at that heavily air-conditioned basement of the Centre for the Greek Language. The opinions, as it is always the case, just reflected the personal knowledge, half-ignorance, interest and interests of the participants. There was a voice supporting the dramatic representation of history always pointing at glory, sacrifice, hardship and achievements (one step beneath the Angels, as Athanasios Psalidas put it during the 19th century). Another one suggested that the ambiguous periods should not be excluded from our teaching. For sure, I agreed with the latter, making a joke out of the unified, normalized and glorious model of historical narratives. There is a question of strategy and pedagogical stance. Some people would prefer to work through admiration and positive astonishment, while others would allow space for accuracy, contemplation and trust in our students' judgement. I believe that it is the latter stance that creates the condition of empathy and activates the class in a productive way. I faced the dilemma recently when I gave an account about the Greek-Italian War, commemorated on the occasion of the national day October 28th (1940). Should one stop over there or should one continue with the traumatic period of the Greek Civil War (1944-1949)? What may one do with a class of devoted students, whose parents went through the bitterness of a civil war, during the '70s and avoid talking about it, in public at least? The detour I took was through a song, from Mikis Theodorakis's Dionysus. Here is the sample.

Ambiguous Victory…

Διόνυσος
Μουσική –Στίχοι : Μίκης Θεοδωράκης
Τραγούδι: Θανάσης Μωραϊτης

Ο Οραματισμός
(Οι μάνες του κόσμου χαιρετούν το Διόνυσο από το λόφο του Φιλοπάππου)

Ψηλά στα χέρια κρατούν
Μαύρα πανιά και θρηνούν
-του κόσμου οι μαύρες μάνες-
Ανάβουν λαμπάδες

Μέσα στα Τάρταρα να φωτίσουν
Ξανθόν αρχάγγελο να ξυπνήσουν

Να γίνει φως γαλανό
Τραγούδι συμπαντικό
Τη γη να κατακλύσει
και να μας οδηγήσει

Μέσα στα κρύσταλλα της αβύσσου
Μπροστά στις πύλες του Παραδείσου.
------------
Πανί-cloth, θρηνώ- lament, λαμπάδα- taper/candle, σύμπαν(syn, pan)- κατακλύζω(- cataclysm)
Τα τάρταρα (τάρταρον) / η άβυσσος/ ο (εδώ: η) Παράδεισος Στην ελληνική μυθολογία, ο Διόνυσος είναι γιος του Δία και της ιέρειας Σεμέλης, στους πιο γνωστούς μύθους. Άλλοι λένε πως είναι γιος του Δία και της Περσεφόνης. Για περισσότερα, διάβασε: 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysus,
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semele ,
3. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/d/dionysus.html

For the difficult task of giving an account on painful parts of contemporary Greek history, and very few are comparable in their tragic impact to the Civil War (1944-1949), Theodorakis preferred the field of mythology. Dionysos is a suitable figure, representing renewal, youth, and bitter strife (Euripides, Bacchae). Interestingly enough, the chorus of the contemporary tragedy here evokes memories of Hecuba rather than Bacchae.
Για περισσότερα, διάβασε: 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_Civil_War ,
2. http://tovima.dolnet.gr/front_page.php?fyllo=14333&section=B

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