In the conclusion of Aeschylus's Oresteia, Athena declares that deinon—typically translated “fear” or “terror”—should be held at the heart of the polis for all time. This move is allegorized by the enshrining of the Erinyes (or Furies) in the Athenian Acropolis. This has been interpreted variously as a charter for political absolutism, a justification of the repression of matrilineal relationships, or as an expression of the often paradoxical manifestation of divinity in Greek tragedy. This article argues that deinon is an example of Aeschylus's use of a mythical mode of thought that rational discourse cannot easily access. To elaborate the meaning of Athena's deinon, I examine its shifting role in the Oresteia, alongside that of the Erinyes, and find modern analogues in the ideas of the sublime and the uncanny. In these concepts, post-Enlightenment reason theorizes paradoxes that were inherent properties of mythical reality to the archaic mind. By exploring the correspondences between these ancient and modern terms, I demonstrate how Aeschylus unites mythical and political thought in a performance of myth that expresses and accommodates the logical anomalies of human experience.
Comparative Literature Studies publishes comparative critical essays that range across the rich traditions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America, and that examine the literary relations between East and West, North and South. Articles may also explore movements, themes, forms, the history of ideas, relations between authors, the foundations of criticism and theory, and issues of language and translation. Each issue of CLS also contains numerous book reviews of the most important comparative literature monographs and essay collections.
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