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BIC Excellence Award

Ancient Greek and Contemporary Performance
Collected Essays

By Graham Ley

Ancient Greek and Contemporary Performance
Hardback, 284 pages £70.00
Published: 2014
ISBN: 9780859898911
Format: 234mm x 156mm
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PDF, 284 pages £56.00
Published: 2015
ISBN: 9780859899642
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EPUB, 284 pages £56.00
Published: 2015
ISBN: 9780859899833
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Subjects: Performance

This collection of published and unpublished essays connects antiquity with the present by debating the current prohibiting conceptions of performance theory and the insistence on a limited version of ‘the contemporary’.

The theatre is attractive for its history and also for its lively present. These essays explore aspects of historical performance in ancient Greece, and link thoughts on its significance to wider reflections on cultural theory from around the world and performance in the contemporary postmodern era, concluding with ideas on the new theatre of the diaspora.

Each section of the book includes a short introduction; the essays and shorter interventions take various forms, but all are concerned with theatre, with practical aspects of theatre and theoretical dimensions of its study. The subjects range from ancient Greece to the present day, and include speculations on the origin of ancient tragic acting, the kinds of festival performance in ancient Athens, how performance is reflected in the tragic scripts, the significance of the presence of the chorus, technology and the ancient theatre, comparative thinking on Greek, Indian and Japanese theory, a critique of the rhetoric of performance theory and of postmodernism, reflections on modernism and theatre, and on the importance of adaptation to theatre, studies of the theatre and diaspora in Britain.






Section A:  Greek theatre and theory


1. "Hypokrinesthai in Homer and Herodotus, and the Function of the Athenian Actor", Philologus 127.1 (1983)

2. "Performance and Performatives", Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 13.1 (1998)

3. “Monody, Choral Song, and Athenian Festival Performance", Maia xlv.2 (1993)

4. “The Presence of the Chorus”, unpublished essay developed from a paper given at a conference at Northwestern University, Chicago, October 2010.

Section B:  Greek theatre practice


5. Graham Ley and Michael Ewans, "The orchestra as Acting-area in Greek Tragedy", Ramus 14.2 (1985)

6. "Performance Studies and Greek Tragedy", Eranos 92 (1994)

7. “The Nameless and the Named: Techne and Technology in the Ancient Athenian Theatre”, Performance Research 10.4 (2005)

Section C:  Performance theory


8. "Sacred Idiocy: the Avant-garde as Alternative Establishment", New Theatre Quarterly 28 (1991)

9. "The Rhetoric of Theory: the Role of Metaphor in Peter Brook's The Empty Space", New Theatre Quarterly 35 (1993)

10. "Richard Schechner's `The Future of Ritual': the Final Chapter", Performance Research 3.3 `On Ritual' (1998)

11. "Aristotle's Poetics, Bharatamuni's Natyasastra, and Zeami's Treatises: Theory as Discourse", Asian Theatre Journal 17.2 (2000)

12. "Theatrical Modernism: A Problematic", in A.Eysteinsson and V.Liska (eds.)A Comparative History of Literature in European Languages: Modernism. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, (2007)

13. “Discursive Embodiment: The Theatre as Adaptation”, Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance 2.3 (2009)

14. “The Critical Absence of a Postmodern Reception Theory of Live Performance”, unpublished editorial contribution to Baz Kershaw and Graham Ley (eds.),“Beyond Postmodernism”, Contemporary Theatre Review 3.18 (2008).

Section D:  Diaspora theatre


15. “Composing a History: Problematics of the British Asian Research Project at Exeter”, Studies in Theatre and Performance 30.2 (2010)

16. “Theatre and Diversity” – unpublished English-language version of the paper delivered in Cologne and published in W.Schneider Theater und Migration: Herausforderung fur Kulturpolitik und Theaterpraxis. Bielefeld: Transcript, (2011)

17. “Diaspora Space, the Regions, and British Asian Theatre”, New Theatre Quarterly 107 (2011)




‘[. . . ] the work is a landmark contribution to theatre studies, and actors, directors, and readers of Greek theatre will find many valuable insights within the covers of this book.’
Lauren Friesen, University of Michigan-Flint,  Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Volume 32, Number 1, Fall 2017

‘To have such a diverse set of essays by such an astute and careful thinker gathered in one volume offers the theatre/performance scholar a box of intellectual treats with a long shelf-life.’ Professor Phillip Zarrilli, University of Exeter

'This collection of essays by Graham Ley covers over thirty years of scholarly research and reflection upon key questions in the field of performance and offers an impressive range both historically... and geographically.' (Marvin Carlson, Studies in Theatre and Performance, 35.2, 2015)



Graham Ley is Professor Emeritus of Drama and Theory, University of Exeter. He has directed and translated for the theatre and was dramaturg to John Barton in Tantalus directed by Peter Hall (Denver USA, 2000, UK, 2001). He has previously published with both University of Exeter Press and University of Chicago Press.



Publication Details:

 Hardback , 284 pages
 234mm x 156mm

 PDF , 284 pages

 EPUB , 284 pages

BIC Code:
  DRA000000, HIS054000, LCO003000, LIT013000, PER011000
 University of Exeter Press


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