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Displacing the Gods? Agency and Power in Adaptations of Ancient History and Myth

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Abstract:

This article considers the ways in which ancient cultures are represented within contemporary cinematic narrative. The study uses the notion of attribution as its starting point, and focuses on two recent cinematic adaptations, Snyder's 300 (2007) and Petersen's Troy (2004). Attribution is defined as the retrospective assignation of particular sensibilities and beliefs to ancient cultures. The directors and/or authors who generate perspectives on the past may not appreciate the exact provenance of the traditions from which they have drawn their material. Displacing the Gods? examines some of the historical and literary antecedents of modern attitudes, in order to place cinematic accounts of Thermopylae and Troy in a more objective context. The second major feature of the enquiry concerns the ways in which power or agency is assigned to the various characters and forces within the films studied. Particular reference is made to the distinction between human and divine activity, and the evident need to offer rational explanations of events while reinforcing the view that ancient Greek societies were driven by religious superstition.

Keywords: agency; attribution; belief; myth; narrative; polis

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/jafp.1.2.117_1

Affiliations: De Montfort University.

Publication date: June 3, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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