Theatre and Theory Partnered Through Ethnographic Study

Authored by: Steven Z. Athanases

Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy Through the Communicative and Visual Arts

Print publication date:  December  2007
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780805856996
eBook ISBN: 9781315759616
Adobe ISBN: 9781317639701

10.4324/9781315759616.ch13

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Abstract

Though the ancient Greeks depicted Apollo and Dionysus as distinct and contrasting, these gods embodied halves of a self. The Greeks believed Dionysus transforms us through wine and theatre, sense and emotion, and instinct and the erotic; through sacred trance that puts us in touch with the primordial elements. The Greeks believed Apollo, in contrast, represented purity and strength, clarity and the rational, the reasoned, and the deliberate. Dionysus, god of celebrations, ruled in the dark of winter; Apollo ruled in the summer when bright light exposed all. Apollo was linked to the static arts of sculpture and architecture and of distanced introspection and repose. Dionysus was god of dynamic arts such as drama, music, song, and dance; of art as life in process, shared in moments of ecstasy as a social experience; and of emotion and embodied expression. Apollo was god of theory, of clear and rational understanding. In a study of classical Greek literature, Nietzsche identified the Apollonian and the Dionysian as opposites existing together in the Greek culture and person—the rational and ordered life improved when invigorated by the sensual, dynamic, irrational, and socially shared experience (Mencken, 1908/2003). In this view, to be healthy and spirited requires the dance of Dionysus and deliberation of Apollo.

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