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Electra Myth in Ancient and Modern Drama

Author: Tatiana Golban
Degree:doctor of philology
Speciality: 10.01.06 - World and Comparative Literature
Scientific adviser: Sergiu Pavlicenco
doctor habilitat, professor, Moldova State University
Scientific council:


The thesis was presented on the 26 January, 2006
Approved by NCAA on the 23 February, 2006


Adobe PDF document0.87 Mb / in romanian


CZU 82.09(100)(043.3)

Adobe PDF document 2.96 Mb / in romanian
190 pages


comparison, reception, influence, myth, fundamental situation of the myth, archetype, ethno-religious myth, literary myth, literalised myth, mythicization, demythicization, sacred, profane, humanization, character, action, theme, literary system, literary model, artistic originality, drama, tragedy, tragic, tragic quilt, text, intertextualism, psychology, psychoanalysis, subconscious, existentialism, time, space


The present thesis, entitled Electra Myth in Ancient and Modern Drama, proposes to investigate the system of the thematic elements of Electra myth from both the diachronic perspective of its beginnings, development and consolidation, and from the synchronic one, following a number of defining features, principles and elements (theoretical, thematic and structural) correlated within one literary pattern. It is to be implemented the first, probably, study that focuses, in synthesis, methodologically and methodically, on Electra myth conceived as a literary system in itself, expressing in literature a fundamental situation for the human condition, where Electra becomes a literary invention, a literary archetype as universal symbol, reifying its own literary myth of individual essence.

However, Electra myth has to be regarded in relation to the ethno-religious myth of the Atreus family, in whose thematic context Electra myth finds its origin, is related to and actually belongs to according to the specificity of its thematic perspectives. Under the form of literary myth, that is being an independent literary system expressing its own fundamental situation, Electra myth develops and establishes itself as literary typology and dramatic tradition in Electra by Sophocles, Electra by Euripides, Mourning Becomes Electra by O’Neill and Electra by Giraudoux; under the form of literalised myth, that is being placed as literary system within the larger system of a different and ampler fundamental situation expressed by the myth of the Atreus family (as an ethno-religious myth rendered literary in dramatic texts), Electra myth reveals itself in Oresteia by Aeschylus, The Flies by Sartre and The Family Reunion by Eliot. The main factor that has generated the rise of Electra myth, as well as the freedom of literary representation of Electra in the dramatic texts (tragedies) of ancient and modern periods as premises of artistic originality, is to be found in the structure of the myth of the Atreus family, in which Electra has not been established in the framework of some rigid parameters concerning her role and importance in the course of events.

Electra myth – focused on events and their consequences concerning the status of Electra as an emotional and psychological factor involved in and co-participant at Orestes’ punitive action – represents a literary myth, narration-product of the artistic imagination, and the fundamental situation that confers to Electra and the action in which she is involved the status of myth refers to the inter-human determinism based on a large range of emotional and psychological states that manifest in the context of a symbolic typology of human existence regarding violence, crime, revenge, and an action that destabilizes the universal harmony, the welfare of the city and the individual and family existence, where the perpetration of another crime as punitive action is expected to restore the lost values and to re-establish the personal and social well-being. Electra’s role is to become aware of this situation and to confer to it the status of an existential model, a pattern of life through her own psychological and emotional significance as the expression of a tragic heroism, intense experiences, exacerbate emotions, unstable subconscious, extreme suffering, inherited quilt, which will eventually give rise to the necessity of action and determine its perpetration by Orestes. Electra involves and even participates in the required action, which is vengeful and liberating, brutal and rationalized, emotional and instinctual, egotistical and formative, depending on the thematic variety of different dramatic texts, typologically patterned and at the same time open to artistic diversity. Both ancient and modern writers of Electra myth perform demythicization and mythicization of the dramatic discourse through the creation of realistic characters and life situations, and, respectively, through the revival of a deep mythological essence, conferring to it the tragic substance of certain archetypal human and behaviorist types having epical resonance, expressing general human existence and prompting static models with timeless, superhistorical and metaliterary values. The demythicization and mythicization, simultaneous processes taking place in a single literary text, signify the permanence of Electra myth, its diachronic evolution and literary continuity, its consolidation as a dramatic tradition open to innovating perspectives and creative originality. At the same time, Electra myth represents a well-structured system that keeps its essence unmodified, disregarding the chronotope of action, the names of characters and the concourse of events, and thus proving the truth according to which myth develops, survives, continues its evolution, and remains representative and didactic for the human condition and community only as being placed in the framework of the literary discourse.