Associate Professor Anne-Sophie Noel, École Normale Supérieure de Lyon/HiSoMA

Material objects are now a well-established research topic in Greek tragedy. In the past decade, the most remarkable critical turn has been a shift from a performance-oriented interest to an ontological questioning. While the first generation of scholars investigated how objects participated, sometimes crucially, in the performance of Greek tragedy, the current generation is more interested in the ontology of objects, namely the set of defining properties that characterise their being in ancient plays, and, more widely, how non-human and human beings coexist in the ancient tragic Weltanschauung. This shift raises epistemological questions that have not been explicitly formulated. Moreover, a response to these ontological debates on the ‘life’ of objects has been to absorb and apply new theories: posthumanism and new materialisms are now deployed as new heuristic tools broadening classicists’s range of interpretative strategies. However, through a critical reading of Jane Bennett’s acclaimed 2010 opus, Vibrant Matter, I show how radical new materialist ideas – advocating for the non-human turn – clash with ancient Greek culture. The ancient, tragic materialism indeed grants a relational existence to objects, entangled with human bodies, emotions and cognition.

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The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at