This paper reflects on the potential epistemological crisis prompted by affect studies in relation to Greek tragedy. While it is possible to problematise and critique the anachronisms of historicist positivism, etc., the ‘apolitical’ affect itself can potentially border on the anachronistic, and any attempts to recoup this – for instance with regard to contemporary discourse – through attention to the specifics of the contingent and socio-political (hence the emergence of affect in gender, race, disability, class studies, and so on), require a recalibration of our understanding of the senses as socially performed (and thus historically located).
Reframed in this way, the turn to affect with respect to Greek tragedy would seem to lead back to the (historicist) false dawn of attempting to ‘recreate’ an authentic, recoverable Ancient Greek subject. Can I only ever say – narcissistically – what Greek tragedy feels like to me, nuancing this in turn, via classical reception studies, with the acknowledgment that ‘I’ am constituted and performed in specific ways, and with specific histories, and perhaps even futurities?
Chaired by Niall Gildea. The paper is followed by short comments and discussion from four other contributors: David Bell, Louise Braddock, Simon Goldhill and Miriam Leonard.