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Under the Sign of the Shield

Semiotics and Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes

Froma I. Zeitlin

Described as "a powerful, brilliant, and original study" when first published, this second edition of Froma Zeitlin's experiment in decoding the Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes in the light of contemporary theory now updates her explorations of the tragic struggle between Eteocles and Polyneices, the doomed sons of Oedipus, with a new preface, a new afterword, and the addition of the relevant Greek texts. The mutual self-destruction of the enemy brothers in this last act of the cursed family is preceded (and determined) by one of Aeschylus' most daring innovations through the pairing of the shields of attackers and defenders in the central scene of the play as an extended dialogue explicitly concerned with visual and verbal symbols. In a preliminary consideration of the relations between language and kinship and between city and family, between self and society, as determining forces in fifth-century drama, the heart of the book is a detailed investigation of this tour de force of semiotic energy. Zeitlin's decipherment of this provocative text yields a heightened appreciation of Aeschylus' compositional artistry and the complexity of his worldview. At the same time, this study points the way to Zeitlin's larger engagement with the special ideological role that the city of Thebes comes to play on the tragic stage as the negative counterpart to the self-representation of Athens. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 198Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/2
978-0-7391-2589-2 • Hardback • April 2009 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
Froma I. Zeitlin is professor of classics and the Charles Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature at Princeton University.
Chapter 0 Foreword by Greg Nagy
Chapter 2 Preface to the First Edition
Chapter 3 Preface to the Second Edition
Part 4 I Language, Structure, and the Son of Oedipus
Chapter 5 1 Trilogy: Narrative, Time, and Repetitive Form
Chapter 6 2 Genos: System of Finality/System of Language
Chapter 7 3 Mythos-Polis/Genos: Autochthony/Incest
Chapter 8 4 Hero: Structure, Sign, and Identity
Chapter 9 5 Reading the Signs by the Rules of the Game
Part 10 II The Shield Scene
Chapter 11 6 Tydeus-Melanippos: 375-416
Chapter 12 7 Kapaneus-Polyphontes: 422-451
Chapter 13 8 Eteoklos-Megareus: 457-480
Chapter 14 9 Hippomedon-Hyperbios: 486-520
Chapter 15 10 Parthenopaios-Aktor: 526-562
Chapter 16 11 Amphiaraos-Lasthenes: 568-626
Chapter 17 12 Polyneikes-Eteokles: 631-685
Chapter 18 13 Aftermath
Chapter 19 Appendix to Part II: The Opfertod Theory
Part 20 III System and Representation
Chapter 21 14 The Shield Scene as System: Relations and Patterns
Chapter 22 15 The Shield Scene as Representation: the Mise en Scene
Chapter 23 16 The Shield Scene as System: the Development of the Self
Chapter 24 Postscript: Tragic Thebes on the Athenian Stage
With this brilliant analysis of Aeschylean drama, Froma Zeitlin shows twenty-first century students, scholars, and lovers of antiquity how to read Greek tragedy.
Page duBois, University of California, San Diego

This is undoubtedly the one book to read on Aeschylus's Seven Against Thebes, a classic of the criticism of tragedy. The range of questions, the brilliance of the analyses, the importance of the issues raised make this a book that anyone thinking about tragedy should know intimately. The Seven Against Thebes was one of the most influential of ancient tragedies, and, with Zeitlin's reading, we can see how many of the great themes of tagedy were put in place here.
Simon Goldhill

Since its original publication in 1982, Under the Sign of the Shield has inspired many readers and critics with its close readings and uncompromising embrace of a theoretical approach. The first edition represented the leading edge of classics and literary theory, and even 25 years later its interpretations cut deep. This new edition of Zeitlin's seminal study of Seven Against Thebes makes a hitherto difficult-to-find text available to a wider audience. We should applaud its rerelease, with a brief but useful new introduction, additions to notes and bibliography, and a postscript on "Tragic Thebes."
Daniel Berman, The Pennsylvania State University