Phaedra’s fantasy other: Phenomenology and the enactive mind in Euripides’ Hippolytus

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Euripides’ Hippolytus dramatizes issues that turn on the whole question of what an ethic of honour and shame really amounts to: is one’s sense of honour, one’s capacity for shame, just a matter of accommodating one’s conduct to others’ opinions or can it involve commitment to internalized and personally endorsed moral principles? This paper focuses on the difference it makes to approach these questions in terms of the remarkable ability that language, narrative, and drama have to represent vividly and imaginatively at least something of the first-person perspective, to give a sense of the subjective phenomenology of emotional experience, of what it feels like to be a particular person, in a particular situation, feeling a certain way. This is an approach that sees both cognition and emotion as aspects of embodied experience, shaped by the primary ways in which the human organism interacts with and makes sense of its environment. At Hippolytus 413–18, I argue, Phaedra’s imaginative account of what she would feel, if she were in the situation of the hypothetical other women whose conduct she condemns, represents the feeling of a woman with a body of a certain kind, whose sense of the principles that drive her is not dry or abstract, but concrete, physical, and embedded not just in specific social relationships, but also in particular spatial locations and environments. What we get here is a sense of what it might feel like, for a particular human being of a particular gender, class, and situation, to feel an emotion of a certain sort.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEthics in Ancient Greek Literature
EditorsMaria Liatsi, Ariadni Gartziou-Tatti, Evangelos Karakasis
PublisherWalter de Gruyter GmbH
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2020

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