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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

2005 Summer Reading
The Burial at Thebes

by Prof. Michael Arnush, Classics

These essays address a variety of aspects associated with the theater - as the space for staging and viewing drama, as the imaginary spaces that inhabit the reader's perceptions of a play's text, and as the space which serves as a repository for our recollections of previous performances. The Athenians invented both drama and the theater, and these two innovations alone signify the enormous historical and global impact of Greek culture. Indeed, one of the earliest literary critics, Aristotle of Stagira (pupil of Plato, founder of the educational institution known as the Lyceum, and one of the world's most talented and diverse thinkers), devoted the first book of his Poetics to the tragic stage (the second, lost book dealt with comedy; for a wonderful fictional account of the hunt for this work, read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose or the film of the same name). When we attend a dramatic performance, such as Skidmore Theater Department's production of The Burial of Thebes in November, we recognize the debt we owe to ancient Athens; but how much of the Athenian contribution has survived in modern theatrical productions? Are the spaces at all similar, or have we moved far beyond the limits of the Athenian imagination? These essays provide an overview of theatrical spaces ancient, modern and conceptual.