Les danses du devenir-animal : métamorphoses (et métaphores) comiques chez Sémonide, Aristophane et Lucien

Michel Briand


The notion of “becoming-animal”, labelled by G. Deleuze, criticized and enriched or ignored by contemporary philosophies, has been applied here to ancient Greek comic texts, in correlation with methods of literary analysis drawing from dance studies and such notions as embodied readership, inter-mediality of performance and text, empathetic kinaesthesia, promoted by G. Bolens, among others. After the kinetic style of female animals (bitch, donkey, sow, vixen, weasel, monkey, mare, bee) in Semonides of Amorgos, fr.7, in a context of sumposion, this study presents two case-studies: 1. Animal choruses in Aristophanes (Frogs, Wasps, Birds), where interacting text, described and performed gestures, and scenic elements (masks, costume) produce metamorphic, burlesque, and carnivalesque hybridizations of humanity and animality, with important implications in a cultural where the anthropos is a zôon. 2. In the polymorphic works of Lucian of Samosate, who claims Aristophanes’s influence, in comic dialogues, sophistic speeches, and fictional narratives, and stages dancing animals (e.g. false philosophers and monkeys in The Fisherman), imaginary hybridous animals in movement (e.g. the Centaur and in True Stories), and, in his dialogue On Dance (mainly on Greco-Roman pantomime), the figure of Proteus representing the dancer and the sophist, always transforming, also in animals, such as Zeus in love himself. Comic (that is mainly parodic and satiric) uses of animal figures in action and in speech provide essential information on what Greek culture, archaic, classical and post-classical, defined as human.

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