Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

Document Type



This dissertation examines the plot outlines of four contemporary plays written by Cuban and South African authors who draw on the ancient Greek stories of Medea and Electra. Written between 1941 and 1998, they include: Virgilio Piñera’s Electra Garrigó (1948), José Triana’s Medea en el espejo (1960), Guy Butler’s Demea (1990), and Mark Fleishman’s In the City of Paradise (1998). These plays resituate and reflect a unique aesthetic commitment in their respective engagements with the ancient plot form through their amalgamation of multiple aesthetic traditions and complex historical and political processes. Through this unique practice of translocation, they both highlight a creative process that involves a commitment to social, cultural and historical politics that resituates the ancient plot within specific local and global trajectories that have marked the spaces from which each of them have emerged. They also underscore their own aesthetic lines of inquiry with respect to the ancient Greek texts. I argue that the methods of composition within each of these contemporary plays, in terms of their experimentation with the ancient plots, not only reconfigures their aesthetics and politics, but also presents alternative epistemologies. The formal dynamism within the plot outlines thus demonstrates how the playwrights from the non-Western world are shaping this commitment with the ancient world into a coherent aesthetic form while underscoring the modality of each creative effort for understanding classical reception from the Global South. To that end, each play negotiates a fluid space where the individual and the collective intersect, placing the plays’ plots in relation to the ancient plot forms, and to local Cuban and South African experiences, and social contexts. Each play has an impact on the transmission of cultural memory in their respective countries, and in the questioning of official accounts of recent history. This creative approach to studying classical reception generates an epistemic location from which alternative knowledges, shared memories, and affective connections emerge. In this sense, the trajectories and connections that the four plays invite a critical analysis based on relational ties. The plays re-invent the social, cultural and historical- political crises in their places of origin.

Committee Chair

Otero, Solimar



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