SCS-19: Choral Alterity: Becoming Other in Greek Poetry

  In-Person   SCS Session   Panel


Rebekah Spearman, St. John's College


If you spend any time of the internet, you know it is rather easy to join a chorus. Be it a chorus of outrage, critique, or mere voyeurism, the crannies of the web offer countless opportunities for finding voices that echo back your cri de c[h]oeur. What this panel is interested in, however, is not the chorus as an eco-chamber, but the chorus as a space of encounter between radically different others.

In Paul Gilroy's The Black Atlantic, Gilroy characterizes antiphony as non-dominating and communitarian (Gilroy 79). Gilroy's chorus of dissenting voices is a place of encounter where the face of the other reveals itself, not as Levinas declares by appearing vulnerable before death (Levinas 24), but by being vibrantly, musically alive. In his work on Greek choruses, Claude Calame characterizes the chorus as a hierarchy among equals (Calame 230). Like Gilroy's Black chorus, Calame's Greek chorus is a non-dominating social group that facilitates and promotes encounter between members of the group and, potentially, between the group and the broader community.

The chorus is thus a community of selves and others, as we see vividly in Pindar and Alcman's partheneia, where the gaze of the chorus often falls upon one individual member. Through the repetition of identity that is implied in the collective cohesion of a chorus, "une singularité inéchangeable, insubstituable [an unexchangeable, unsubstitutable singularity]" (Deleuze 7) emerges. The exploration of identity and alterity through the chorus is further complicated by the fact that choruses may be structurally identical but composed of radically different kinds of people (as seen in panelist #1's paper). Often (although this is certainly not always the case), the chorus is the domain of a social other, be that adolescents (male and female), women, or monsters. Whether appearing as themselves or through the prosthesis of a mask, the chorus provides a space of encounter between the self and the other, society and the other.

In order to explore the multiform nature of the chorus, this panel's presenters adopt a variety of approaches.