Ella Haselswerdt, assistant professor of classics in the UCLA College, has been awarded the American Journal of Philology’s Best Article Prize for her article “Sound and Sublime in Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus: The Limits of Representation.” She was presented with a prize of $1,000 for the best article to appear in the journal in 2019.
Haselswerdt, who is a specialist in Greek tragedy, with expertise extending from her current book project on chorality and trauma to the reception of antiquity in the work of Ann Carson, Brazilian performance, and queer contemporary art, joined the classics department in August.
Her prize-winning article, which she wrote as a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University, undertakes an analysis of the deployment of sound in Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus” that is grounded in a material aesthetics. Haselswerdt complements recent scholarship on the role that the senses play in literary works from Greek and Roman antiquity. She expands on earlier studies by illustrating how paying attention to the acoustic realm reveals a set of diverse issues — literary, historical and topographical — informing Sophocles’ final dramatic production. Oedipus’ blindness elevates sound’s significance, and the play simultaneously emphasizes the power of voice and the ineffable, phenomena that serve to draw the audience into a close sensory sympathy with the dramatic world and to emphasize its ultimate inaccessibility.
Haselswerdt’s research interests range broadly across Greek literature, with a particular focus on the aesthetics, poetics and reception of Athenian tragedy. Her current monograph project, “Epistemologies of Suffering: Tragedy, Trauma, and the Choral Subject,” argues that the choral poetics of Greek tragedy are fundamental to the way that the genre makes conceptual sense of extreme suffering.
At the same time, she’s pursuing a range of smaller-scale projects on topics including mythic ecosystems and landscape in Sophocles’ “Philoctetes”, the Brazilian reception of Euripides’ “Bacchae”, the economy of antiquity in Anne Carson’s “FLOAT”, and the reception of Sappho’s fragments in queer contemporary art.