Pasolini’s Greeks and the Irrational
Keywords:Pasolini, Aeschylus, irrational, reception, ideology
This article traces Pasolini’s engagement with Aeschylus Oresteia and the concept of the “irrational,” through which he sought to excavate patterns of ideological resistance in the classical past. I argue that Pasolini’s translations and adaptations of Aeschylus ultimately failed to achieve his desired ambition to forward an Aeschylus fit for the proletariat, and whose words might spark new kinds of Marxist thought. However, there is value in reading into Pasolini’s practices and his reflections on his work. Acknowledging and parsing his affects of disappointment and resignation, the broader conceptual outlines of his ambitions become clearer as gestures of kind of “failed” classical reception – an attempt to turn the classics to new political ends. An analysis of this kind of failure teaches us broader theoretical lessons about what it might mean to perform a generative and politically fruitful appropriation of the classics, necessarily confronting the entrenched ideologies of the past and their tenacious ability to reproduce themselves even in the most unexpected literary and political contexts. The article engages with selections from Pasolini’s literary, personal, and political writings from the 1960s until his death – connecting his translations and adaptations of Aeschylus to other contemporaneous essayistic, novelistic, and cinematic projects.
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