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Chapter 2 - Musical Memory on Delos

Theseus in the Archive and the Repertoire

from Part II - Music, Body, and Textual Archives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2021

Lauren Curtis
Affiliation:
Bard College, New York
Naomi Weiss
Affiliation:
Harvard University, Massachusetts
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Summary

This chapter explores how Diana Taylor’s definition of “archive” (e.g., historical artifacts and written records) and “repertoire” (performance practices) as distinct but related forms of cultural memory illuminates the representation of mythic performance in Plutarch’s Lives. More than simply applying modern performance theory to ancient texts, my analysis brings Plutarch into dialogue with Taylor, showing that he reflects upon similar theoretical problems in a distinctive way. In recounting Theseus’ visit to Delos, Plutarch describes how the hero’s defeat of the Minotaur is commemorated by object dedication and choral dance. These two acts of memory are closely intertwined, as both ritual object and mimetic dance function as vehicles to transmit specific elements of the myth. Yet Plutarch also questions the efficacy of dedications and performance practices as such vehicles, calling attention to the limits of both object endurance and mimetic song-dance. By positioning his own writing as a form capable of encompassing and surpassing both the archive and the repertoire, he ultimately reveals how the literary text itself both instantiates and complicates those very distinctions.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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