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Why do we study Greek Tragedies?

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    Why do we study Greek Tragedies?

    I'm organizing my materials and writing a curriculum post for our ninth grade year this fall. As I explain what we're going to be studying, I suddenly realized that I really don't know why we study Greek Tragedies.

    <ignorance awareness>

    So, who wants to enlighten me? 😆
    Plans for 2020-21

    Year 10 of homeschooling with MP

    DD1 - 25 - Small Business owner with a STOREFRONT
    DD2 - 14 - 9th grade - HLS Cottage School/MPOA - equestrian
    DS3 - 12 - 5A Cottage School - soccer
    DS4 - 12 - 5A Cottage School -soccer
    DD5 - 8 - 3A, Cottage School -equestrian and Irish dance
    DS6 - 6 - MP K - home with Momma

    #2
    Hi Dianna!

    I know someone with a more knowledgeable response will come on and answer your question today, but before my day gets started, I thought I would share what I have learned about them from having done them with my kids...which is the fact that they are "Greek drama," and that word cannot be emphasized enough. You know how the term "drama queen" is so familiar to us these days? Well, that is the battle which is constantly being fought in our house...to raise these kids to NOT be drama queens. To realize that there are the appropriate, virtuous responses to disappointment, setbacks, challenges, and suffering - and then there are the inappropriate, vice-riddled responses. These plays are FULL of the inappropriate (and downright immoral!) responses to life's setbacks. Through these plays, they are able to shake their heads and say, "Why on earth would anyone do that?" and then you bring in discussion of more hitting-close-to-home responses that are equally ridiculous. I always emphasize that for the Greeks, they were trying to sort out what it meant to be the Ideal Man...and therefore, showed through their tragedies what would NOT lead to that.

    AMDG,
    Sarah
    2020-2021
    16th Year HSing; 10th Year with MP
    DD, 19, Homeschool grad; college sophomore
    DS, 16
    DD, 14
    DD, 12
    DD, 10
    DD, 8
    DD, 6
    +DS+
    DS, 2

    Comment


      #3
      The Classical Teacher magalog is a good source for answers to questions like that. You're going to enjoy this article, for instance. Quote: "To be ignorant of Homer, Aeschylus, and Sophocles is to be ignorant of the range and depth of human possibility." Which is pretty much the point Sarah is making in her reply.

      Then there is this Cheryl Lowe article at the end of an excellent series explaining why we study pagan classics: it's not about the tragedies specifically, she talks about classical literature in general. As she says, there isn't much in human experience that the Greeks haven't thought deeply about, giving answers that are still worth exploring. Her other important point is that just like all philosophy comes from Greek philosophy, all literature comes from Greek literature, and to read and understand the Greek classics means to equip yourself with the right tools to read and understand later classics (and the whole of human experience.)
      DS (14) and DD (13): MPOA and MP, mostly 8th grade
      DS (6): a mix of K resources, MP and not

      Comment


        #4
        1) Because they are awesome.
        2) Because otherwise you will miss references to them in later literature. Even JK Rowling (no, I’m not saying she writes literature) used a quote from Aeschylus’ “The Libation Bearers” in Deathly Hallows.
        3) Because they deal with eternal themes: love, family duty, revenge, honor, loyalty, virtue...
        4) Because they make for great discussions. Odysseus and Medea are both seeking revenge. Is Odysseus a villain? How is Clytemnestra different from Lady Macbeth? Is Jason in any way responsible for Medea’s actions?
        A classical education is incomplete without Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, and Aristophanes.

        Blessings,
        Jude
        DD 23 College grad, married, employed.
        DS 20 Autistic, beautiful, unemployable.
        DS 17 HS grad. Twelve years of MP. Hopes to be a chess-playing priest.
        DS 15 Teaching me to give up the reins. Does MP work when not in ballet classes, at rehearsals, stretching or playing chess.
        DD 13 Nine years of MP. Chess player, marksman, WSJ fan.
        DS 11 Six years of MP. Chess player, ballet dancer, archer.
        DD 8 Four years of MP. Chess player, occasional dancer. Actually gets to write in the Student Guides.

        Comment


          #5
          Homer's themes often address what it means to be human. What is the pinnacle of existence? Is the quest to be a hero, a specimen of beauty and might, a brave warrior, a successful leader, to have all the food, travel and pleasures you could ever want, what it really means to be human? They are the same questions Solomon asks in Ecclesiastes. What is life? What is the meaning of life? What defines a good life? In the Odyssey, Odysseus ends up on an island with Calypso for years and years, experiencing the height of pleasure with a goddess. He leaves even that for the hearth of home! Somehow, when God decided he would write His laws on the hearts of man, this impressed even Homer to acknowledge the truth about the vanities of pleasure and vainglory. Pleasure is fleeting, so is the pride of earthly accomplishments. As Christians, we get to read a pagan story that lays bare Biblical truth and at other times contrasts against what our loving Creator calls us to be. What do the Gospels say about the pursuits of the flesh and what is lasting vs. everlasting? What is an example of sacrificial friendship and love? How far does devotion carry us? Who can we truly trust in to get us "safely home"?

          Reading beautifully-written prose and drama allows our students to grapple with themes they will experience their whole adult lives. Anger, betrayal, forgiveness, atonement, the fool who erroneously gets placed in power and gets people hurt or killed, the horror of war or murder, the difficulty of remarriage...when I taught 10th grade lit, everyone could relate to these themes in ways that shocked and horrified me, but such is the human condition! At least about literature you can say it's fiction.
          Mama to 2

          Summer:
          MPK with SC1 Phonics & Math
          SY 20/21
          4A

          Comment


            #6
            Wow! I was trying to get around to answering this post this morning, obviously didn't make it, and came back to these amazing answers! I have nothing to add. You guys rock!

            Tanya

            Comment


              #7
              Yes, Tanya! I was just going to encourage Dianna to link this post instead of consolidating all these great responses. Personally, I like the very beginning of the Agamemnon. Students open up to a scene that picks up right smack on the heels of the fall of Troy. It's like the following scene to all they've studied before. It's the first one my kids read that year. How exciting!
              Festina lentē,
              Jessica P

              2020-2021
              11th year HSing · 9th year MP
              @ Home, HLN, & Latin online
              11th, 9th, 6th, 3rd

              Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School

              Comment


                #8
                I remember a personal experience learning these Greek myths as a kid, and it had a powerful impact on my mind set.

                In seeing these dramas, I reasoned humans beings aren't all that different 6000+ years ago than they are today. Despite so many technological advances (and in some periods, regression and then relearning), from infant to old age, we aren't all that different. It reminded me of something else. God is described as being the same yesterday, today and forever. As we are made in the image and likeness of God, we may have this quality in common.

                It's so easy to get wrapped up in the idea that we've come so far because of our technology and social knowledge...and yet, take the technology away, we are right back to the same characteristics of all men and women of all time. There is something humbling about that thought. I'm not saying each of us isn't special to God. I am saying that each of us will face many of the same personal struggles as people did long before us. That makes their stories still relevant, and as others here have mentioned, worthy of study.

                Taken an opposite way, I often hear from some people that mankind is becoming "worse" than it has ever been, and that is an indicator of end times. It's almost as if, outside of some Biblical villains, mankind was somehow perceived to be better before now, and because we are getting "worse", we must be approaching end times. When I hear this, I think back to these non-Biblical stories and realize that we haven't changed at all - neither better nor worse - and the new perceived bad behavior isn't an end times indicator.

                Melissa

                DS (MP3) - 9
                DS (MP2) - 7/8
                DS (K) - 6
                DD (Adorable distraction) 2 1/2

                Comment


                  #9
                  Paul Schaeffer and I were talking about this the other morning, and he said he found it fascinating to study the pagans and see tragedy from the point of view of people who didn't have Christ - how people did without the perspective of God in their lives. This is an interesting discussion.

                  Tanya

                  Comment


                    #10
                    This discussion has made me think of St. Paul's speech in Athens: how curious the Athenians were to hear him, and how Paul praises their religious sensibility and their acknowledging an unknown god, whom he reveals to them to be the the One True God, as he tries to pull them away from idolatry.
                    DS (14) and DD (13): MPOA and MP, mostly 8th grade
                    DS (6): a mix of K resources, MP and not

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Dianna, you have received wonderful responses.

                      There is also this: Because Greek theater is worth studying, and there's no way that MP would schedule the comedies.
                      Ana, mama to
                      ds A, 14 yo
                      ds N, 9 yo

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by serendipitous journey View Post
                        Dianna, you have received wonderful responses.

                        There is also this: Because Greek theater is worth studying, and there's no way that MP would schedule the comedies.
                        Ana! Too funny because it's true! I read a few in 2019. 🙈
                        Festina lentē,
                        Jessica P

                        2020-2021
                        11th year HSing · 9th year MP
                        @ Home, HLN, & Latin online
                        11th, 9th, 6th, 3rd

                        Highlands Latin Nashville Cottage School

                        Comment

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