Kathy Komar

Panel 2F: Transcodifications in/of the Ancient World/1
Session 2 – July 1, 15:30 – 17:00

  The House of Atreus in Cyberspace: Transmediality of Classical Materials

One of the seminal battles in the establishment of gender hierarchies inthe West takes place in Aeschylus’s Oresteia. In the trilogy Klytemnestra defends Mother Right and blood relationships against Father Right and the privileging of legal relationships established in the founding of the Law Court of Athens. Klytemnestra kills her husband, Agamemnon, upon his return from the Trojan War in vengeance for his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia. Klytemnestra is killed in turn by her son Orestes in revenge for her murder ofAgamemnon. Orestes is finally acquitted of her murder by Athena’s newlyestablished court in Athens. This act creates a gender hierarchy that favors themale and legal rights over the female and blood rights. At the same time, Aeschylus has the female furies literally driven underground to become benevolent females in the service of the state. Curiously all of these characters from the House of Atreus resurface on the World Wide Web in the late 20th century. My paper will examine what revisions take place in the reincarnation of the House of Atreus in cyberspace. I will investigate what shifts in values and what changes in gender hierarchies take place by moving the House of Atreus to the Internet? Do radical transformations occur in this new medium? Do cultural values undergo a fundamental rethinking? Are literary characters and motifs drastically revalued? These are the questions I will investigate.


Kathleen L. Komar is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her books include: Reclaiming Klytemnestra: Revenge or Reconciliation (2003); Transcending Angels: Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Duino Elegies”(l987); Pattern and Chaos: Multilinear Novels by Dos Passos, Faulkner, Döblin, and Koeppen (1983). She edited the volume Father Figures and Gender Identities in Scandinavian and Comparative Literature(2016) and co-edited the collection Lyrical Symbols and Narrative Transformations, with Ross Shideler, (1998). Komar served as President of the American Comparative Literature Association 2005-07 and was elected to the executive board of the International Comparative Literature Association for 2010-2019. Her current research interests include the ways in which technology changes our literary paradigms and issues of the relationship of the Humanities to society as well as early 20th-century literature and crime fiction.