Isabelle Torrance (Aarhus Institue, Stanford Visiting Fellow)


Isabelle Torrance (Aarhus Institue, Stanford Visiting Fellow)         

“Euripides and the Gods”

Thurs. Mar. 2 @ 4.10pm – 912 Sproul Hall

Much scholarly ink has been spilled over the representation of the gods in Euripides. Many characters in his dramas voice doubts about the nature, or even existence, of the gods in their traditional mythological forms. Was Euripides an atheist, influenced by contemporary philosophy to challenge established religion? The problem with this argument, as most recently explored by Mary Lefkowitz in Euripides and the Gods (Oxford, 2016), is that the gods are always vindicated in Euripides’ plays. So, Lefkowitz argues, Euripides presents a bleak picture of arbitrary and brutal gods. Still we are left with the many doubting characters in his tragedies. This paper seeks to reframe our approach to Euripides and the gods by looking at his representation of the divine within its dramaturgical framework. It is argued here, developing theories put forward in my Metapoetry in Euripides (Oxford, 2013), that the arbitrary actions of the gods, forced upon a dramatic plot, do not provide satisfactory conclusions to the questions raised in a play and must therefore be designed to prompt audience reflection on philosophical and theological issues.


In addition, the following week we will be treated to a talk by Darien Shanske from UC Davis’ law faculty, in which he will discuss how the classics can inform and intersect with modern jurisprudence.

Darien Shanske           

Classics and Law, Antigone and Sally Yates: A Short Talk about  Jurisprudence Tragic and Modern

Wed. Mar. 8 @ 4.10pm, 912 Sproul Hall

In this talk, I will discuss several broad aspects of what I am calling “tragic” jurisprudence as opposed to modern jurisprudence.  In particular, I will contend that classical thinkers were most impressed by the phenomenon of lawfulness as it is a characteristic of people.  This is in contrast to more contemporary thinkers who seem more impressed with law as a social phenomenon as distinguished from other social phenomena, such as custom or religion.  What lawfulness as an attribute of a person, a virtue, tries to explain – or dramatize – is how a person can be lawful in new situations, especially in moments when the regular political/legal system is not operating properly.  The ancient perspective has never lost its import, but there are times, such as the present moment, when this perspective is particularly illuminating.