Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reasoning: The Iconography of Greek Theater #3, Ralf Krumeich

My mom took this picture in the gardens.

Ralf Krumeich spoke first, after Mary Louise Hart's introduction. I had not heard of him, because it appears that he writes only in German, but he is Privatdozent (which I assume is like a professor) of classical archaeology in at the Universitat Bonn and writes on archaeology, satyr plays, and the relationship between classical monuments in Athens and Delos as conceived by different cultures in the Hellenistic and Imperial periods.

Krumeich was a fascinating character. He was immediately likable and charismatic. His English was fabulous, although heavily accented. It made me realize how differently the Germans pronounce Greek names like Atreus (he said "aahh-traus"). He was perfectly understandable, and oddly enough when he was answering questions his English was better and more fluid than when he was reading his presentation. I want to be able to do that in German, someday.

Ralf Krumeich's ideas were also rich and well-explicated. He created a system for categorizing pottery and its relationship to theater and mythology:
  1. Images which explicitly show Athenians (or those from South Italy or Sicily) in or around the performance of a tragedy/satyr play/comedy.
  2. Mythological images which can be connected with theatrical performance through visual tropes such as masks, costumes, aulos players, etc.
  3. Myths where a character or characters are portrayed in theatrical costume. One of the main features that places a pot in this category is the lack of masks, as well as only some rather than all of the characters in theatrical dress.
He explained that a large portion of evidence about theater is tainted because it blurs these barriers. Most of the evidence that he problematized is scholars using pieces of pottery from the last two categories in order to make suppositions about the plot or staging of plays which remain only as fragments or titles.

From this information and these categories, he draws two interrelated conclusions. First,Theater, including rehearsals, and those who participated in theater (actors and dancers) have a social and religious significance which made them common themes. But second, although there are many images which incorporate the iconic tropes of theater, most of them are mythological paintings with a gesture toward theatrical performance and its cultural significance in the mythic narrative rather than any specific portrayal of theater or a theatrical performance.

I thought the paper provided valuable insights on the missteps of scholarship in equating art too closely with potential instances of theater. It also seemed to me that the three-level categorization was clear and useful. Overall, Ralf gave a great talk, accompanied by a wide variety of pictures of the different types of potter of which he spoke.

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