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Maarit Kaimio

Maarit Kaimio (née Vuorenjuuri)
Born April 19, 1941, Helsinki.

Master of Arts (Roman Literature), 1965, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1968, and Doctor of Philosophy, (Greek Literature) 1970, University of Helsinki.

Professor of Greek Language and Literature, 1976–2004, University of Helsinki
Vice-Dean, 1992–1994, 1995–1997, 2001–2003, University of Helsinki
Assistant, Classical Philology, 1965–1968, University of Turku
Assistant, Greek Literature, 1968–1973, University of Helsinki
Docent, Greek Literature, 1972–1975, University of Helsinki
Junior Researcher, State Committee for the Humanities, 1973–1975

Publications, research projects and other academic activities
Research interests: Ancient Greek dramatic literature and theatre, the Greek novel, Greek papyrus documents

Written by Maarit Kaimio and Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta (ed.)
Translated by John Calton

Tragedy is for ever

There have never been more stagings of ancient Greek tragedies than today. There has to be something eternal and touching in them. And all this arose from the successful cultural policy of one town in the fifth century BC: each year in Athens, thirteen new tragedies and ten new comedies were produced for the entertainment of a theatre-going public. Of this vast output only a small fraction has been preserved.

These plays belong by right to the core studies in Greek literature, and I was bowled over by them from an early age. Listening to the lectures given by Professor Henrik Zilliacus I was left wondering why the chorus in the plays was, or were, addressed in the second person singular at some points and the second person plural at others, and why the chorus referred to itself as both I and we. What exactly was this many-headed unit, or univocal assembly? In order to solve this question I had to write a doctoral thesis. This meant reading all the extant tragedies and comedies until I knew them inside out, to the point where the ancient Greek theatre had taken me captive.

Someone might claim that a field like this has been studied exhaustively, that there’s nothing more to say, but that’s far from the case: there a plenty of problems, both large and small, with new ones emerging the whole time and the old answers are refined with the benefit of new perspectives. I personally gradually shifted towards theatre in performance, reflecting for example on what we can determine about the physical contacts seen on the stage – the gestures expressing violence, love, assistance or requests of help, and the meaning of these moments within the drama as a whole. A good example of new approaches to the ancient Greek theatre was Vesa Vahtikari’s doctorate, approved by the Arts Faculty in autumn 2014. It sheds light on the quite astonishing spread of the theatrical tradition from Athens around the known world during the following centuries.

The cover of Vesa Vahtikari's thesis shows a tragic scene: Antigone is brought bound before King Creon. Layout: Vesa Vahtikari.​​
The cover of Vesa Vahtikari's thesis shows a tragic scene: Antigone is brought bound before King Creon. Layout: Vesa Vahtikari.​​


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