“Voice of Power, Voice of Terror:” Lyric, Violence, and the Greek Revolution
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CitationZenios, Simos. 2018. “Voice of Power, Voice of Terror:” Lyric, Violence, and the Greek Revolution. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation explores the representation of revolutionary violence in the lyric poetry of the Greek Revolution (1821-1829). By scrutinizing diverse material (political pamphlets, aesthetic treatises, accounts on the origin of language, constitutional texts, and various lyric kinds) I argue that lyric poetry emerges as a site where (1) the Greek subjects of the Ottoman Empire are presented as a sovereign community and (2) the emancipatory role of revolutionary violence in political modernity is tested and contested. Furthermore, I account for lyric’s central role by demonstrating that voice, often conceptualized as rational and deliberative discourse, is a shared category between literary and political discourses on political beginnings.
The study is divided in three chapters. Chapter 1 studies works by Konstantinos Oikonomos and Iakovos Polylas that discuss the role of voice in the formation of specifically modern political communities, that is, communities which are based on popular sovereignty. Taking Adamantios Korais’ ᾎσμα Πολεμιστήριον (1800) as the basis for a broader consideration of exhortative war poems and songs, the chapter then offers a typology of politicizing vocal effects and concludes by explaining the imagery of sacrificial violence as a recuperation or establishment of popular sovereignty during a state of exception.
Chapter 2 turns to the representation of revolutionary violence in philhellenic discourse through an examination of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Hellas (1821). By reading this “lyrical drama” in the context of Shelley’s engagement with classical and modern Greece and by examining the subversive deployment of the “westering” theme, I demonstrate that Shelley criticizes the appropriation of Hellenism by imperial discourses of the period. This critical outlook is premised on the trope of “willful exception:” far from precluding political action, Shelley’s philhellenism strives to render the exceptional or the revolutionary moment continuously accessible.
Lastly, Chapter 3 peruses the relation between voice and revolution in Dionysios Solomos’ early work. I first propose a new reading of Solomos’ project of renovating the poetic vernacular by showing how his early epiphanic poems stage the emergence of the lyric speaker’s reflective and thinking speech as the proper medium for the representation of revolutionary claims. I then read the interplay between the figurations of voice and the presentation of violence in specific passages of Ὕμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν (1824) as a challenge to the above understanding of “vocal modernity.” Solomos’ treatment of voice indicates that revolutionary violence remains emancipatory and just only when it is articulated in a transcendent realm and therefore eludes its instrumental appropriation by the revolutionary subject.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41121243
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