Divine Embodiment and Cosmic Tragedy in Prometheus Desmotes

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Title: Divine Embodiment and Cosmic Tragedy in Prometheus Desmotes
Author: Reisman, Asher Jacob
Advisor: Roberts, Deborah H.
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Classics
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: In this thesis I posit a new reading of the dramatic structure of Prometheus Desmotes, in which the textual and visual features of the play's performance are principally oriented towards the impression of a keen awareness of Prometheus' body in the attention of the audience. This impression is initially produced by the horrific violence of the prologue. This opening scene describes the body of Prometheus and its violation in the unrelentingly corporal terms from the language of human embodiment, while also powerfully affirming his immortality and godhood in the extent to which the violence surpasses all human endurance. These features of Prometheus' body (pitiable physical suffering and divinity) are sounded in a corresponding and intensified manner in the play's cataclysmic finale and more finely articulated and reiterated through the play's otherwise static middle by comparison to other figures whose bodies will share some but never all of these attributes. The significance of this conceptual depiction of a divine body is made clearer by situating Desmotes in relation to its chief predecessors, Homer and Hesiod, in the literary treatment of divine bodies and divine existence more generally. The revisions Desmotes makes to these earlier views is to amplify the prominence of divine violence and suffering and to destabilize the narrative structures which govern it; overturning Homer's program of an Olympus existing in blissful stasis and Hesiod's Zeus-centered cosmic history. These changes open the possibility for genuine tragedy among the gods. Desmotes demonstrates the profound power of such a tragedy first in its long, complex meditation on the body of Prometheus, broken and eternal, and also in the cosmic alterity it envisions in the drama's apocalyptic finale.
Subject: Aeschylus. Prometheus bound
Subject: Aeschylus -- Criticism and interpretation
Subject: Prometheus (Greek deity) in literature
Subject: Human body in literature
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Reisman, Asher Jacob. "Divine Embodiment and Cosmic Tragedy in Prometheus Desmotes". 2011. Available electronically from

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