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The meta-tragic experience of Kassandra: the symbolic revelation of a new religious experience as criticism on moral degeneration in modern culture

Tijdschriftbijdrage - Tijdschriftartikel

Despite the vast research on revisions of ancient myths in early 20th century European literature(52), the German drama-adaptation (1915) of the Kassandra myth, written by the neoclassical author Paul Ernst (1866-1933), has received only little scholarly interest. This drama presents a complex intermixture of ancient and modern as well as mythical and mystical motives. In this article, I analyze the symbolical meaning of the mythical Trojan walls in this play in order to demonstrate that while protecting against outside danger (Helena and the Greeks), these high walls simultaneously prevent inner problems from breaking out. The ancient myth, which Ernst rewrites, is thus used, I argue, to criticize the corruption and degeneration of the German "Seele" or "Geist" during World War I. Subsequently, I discuss the function of the visionary Kassandra, who breaks up with her earthly surroundings and her family inside the walls and whose inner quest for Apollo, an immanent concept of God, symbolically represents the degenerated society's search for new values in itself. Through the Kassandra myth, I believe, a new religious experience, combining a mystical union and Dionysian self-destruction, is revealed.
Tijdschrift: Euphrosyne
ISSN: 0870-0133
Volume: 41
Pagina's: 291 - 306
Jaar van publicatie:2013