Metaphor, paradox and the limits of human agency in Aeschylus

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Again and again in Aeschylus’ tragedies we find one of the characters faced with a
terrible choice between alternative courses of action. As well as giving rise to much
debate among scholars of tragedy, these dilemmas have been analysed by
philosophers such as Bernard Williams and Martha Nussbaum for the light they
supposedly shed on issues of personal responsibility and moral luck. A striking
feature of a number of these scenes is that the nature of the dilemma or the eventual
decision is described in densely metaphorical language. The argument of this paper
is that paying closer attention to these metaphors can make a significant difference
to how we interpret the character’s decision-making process. This in turn raises
important questions about how far the metaphorical language in these scenes can
be paraphrased without imposing the very conceptual schemas and oppositions that
the metaphors seem designed to challenge.
Period27 Mar 2018
Held atTrinity College Dublin, Ireland