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Classics in Post-Colonial Worlds$
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Lorna Hardwick and Carol Gillespie

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199296101

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199296101.001.0001

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From the Peloponnesian War to the Iraq War: a Post-Liberal Reading of Greek Tragedy

From the Peloponnesian War to the Iraq War: a Post-Liberal Reading of Greek Tragedy

(p.265) 15 From the Peloponnesian War to the Iraq War: a Post-Liberal Reading of Greek Tragedy
Classics in Post-Colonial Worlds

Michiel Leezenberg

Oxford University Press

The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, marked a historical rupture comparable to the 1989 collapse of the Communist Bloc in Eastern Europe. However, regardless of whether this event marks a new phase in the post-colonial constellation or a return to classical colonialising imperialism, it poses new empirical, conceptual, and even normative challenges to post-colonial scholarship in the humanities. It would be presumptuous, perhaps even tasteless, to suggest that the study of classical literature can help us understand such dramatic contemporary events. This chapter poses a sometimes iconoclastic challenge to the appropriation of Greek tragedy for liberal and humanist purposes, and especially for a self-righteous reassertion of western values. It presents a model of Greek tragedy as an art form that disengages from affirmation of democratic principles or contexts, and instead tests to the limits, questioning rather than affirming the conventional wisdoms. The Peloponnesian War provided the backdrop for much of the cultural production of fifth century Athens—in particular tragedy—and the implications of this fact for modern-day readings.

Keywords:   Greek tragedy, classical literature, humanities, imperialism, Peloponnesian War, Iraq, liberalism, colonialism

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