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This dissertation studies the way Sophoclean characters listen to one another. Methodologically, I focus on lyric dialogues, scenes in which choruses sing with other characters, and analyze the way the metrical patterns of the songs reflect the forms of listening of the singing partners. The notion of listening that I apply to these scenes is not that of a passive, merely receptive stance; rather, I view listening as an active response that can be understood through vocalization. At its best, listening is a manifestation of empathy.,In Sophoclean lyric dialogues, the singing voice is charged with multiple, often contradictory, meanings. What can we make of the fact that two characters sing in metrical harmony but express a fundamental ethical difference? Does meter itself—as a poetic effect used to create echoes, for example—have moral significance in Sophocles, or does it gain such meaning only by virtue of the dialogic situation and its particular dramatic context? What does empathy sound like? These are some of the questions with which the dissertation is concerned. The poetics of listening in Sophocles thus concerns the interplay between what can be considered, on the one hand, purely sonic attributes of the song and, on the other hand, its ethical import within the dramatic interaction between characters.,In chapter 1, I situate my approach within current scholarship on Sophocles and on the tragic chorus. I treat the chorus as a character whose involvement in the drama is conditioned by the fact that they are a singing group. Though much attention has been given to the chorus’ collective performance of mousikê, few scholars have focused specifically on those moments where the choral group sings with other characters. My argument contributes to an understanding of the dramatic importance of the chorus by suggesting that, in their lyric dialogues with the protagonists, they perform active listening, and that their listening is instrumental in rendering tragic suffering meaningful. I show that attention to metrical effects can further our understanding of these scenes, for meter is an essential medium through which the nuances of vocal responsivity may be gleaned.,Chapter 2 has two goals. First, it develops an understanding of listening as active vocalization based on psychotherapeutic and phenomenological approaches to listening and the voice. Second, it demonstrates the way listening in Sophocles may be analyzed by means of the lyric capacities of the voice, in particular through metrical effects. I propose the notion of deep listening as an ideal of intersubjective responsivity, against which the empathic engagement of Sophoclean characters may be measured. Such listening demonstrates an emotional and ethical commitment to accept the other in their point of view and their experience of suffering. Deep listening suggests a mental or emotional attunement between partners in dialogue, reached through the sonic harmony of their voices.,In contrast to this ideal of listening as attunement, Sophoclean lyric dialogues dramatize the difficulty of engaging empathically. The subtleties of metrical harmony between singers can alert us to their growing emotional affinity, even when their words may reflect discord. This shows that vocalization is a medium that promotes active listening. On the other hand, metrical harmony may stand in contrast to a widening emotional gap, signaling the fragility of listening, especially in the face of inconsolable suffering.,Each of the remaining three chapters of the dissertation presents a close reading of one play, demonstrating how characters approximate or deviate from the ideal model of deep listening. Chapter 3 concerns Electra, where empathic listening comes up against the heroine’s steadfast desire for matricide and her inconsolable grief. Her own mode of listening, which I define as manipulative, conflates the emotional support she is offered by the chorus into moral support for her claim for revenge. Paying attention to the way empathy is manipulated in the play, I suggest, allows us to recognize an internal critique of Electra’s vengeful zeal. More broadly, it shows us the potentially disturbing moral implications of listening.,Chapter 4 concerns Philoctetes, which dramatizes a gradual development of empathic listening to the hero’s suffering. While the play showcases glimmers of deep listening, in particular through Neoptolemus’ receptivity to Philoctetes’ voice-in-pain, empathy repeatedly creates a dramatic conflict that stalls the ultimate resolution of the play. Philoctetes thus problematizes the notion of listening as ethical action in relation to the suffering other.,Chapter 5 concerns Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus’ re-integration into civic society hinges on the possibility of reinterpreting his life in dialogue with the chorus; the deep listening they offer him facilitates his acceptance into their community. The play thus presents the fullest example of the transformative and healing force of empathic listening in Sophocles. The play’s ending, however, reveals the ineffectiveness of listening in the face of grief.,All three plays studied in the dissertation diverge significantly from the ideal of deep listening, or listening as empathic vocalization. Yet in the lyric dialogues I analyze, the poetic means through which the encounter is dramatized contribute to our understanding of the ethical significance of these scenes within each play; more broadly, their sonic harmony allows us to explore the ethics of communication. Even in moments of imperfect listening, listening is nonetheless foregrounded as an action. Lyric dialogues in Sophocles thus elucidate the potential and limits of human empathy.


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