Marie-Charlotte von Lehsten, M.A.

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Graduiertenkolleg 1876
Hegelstr. 59
55122 Mainz


Project title: Concepts of night in archaic and classical Greek literature.

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Jochen Althoff, Prof. Dr. Marion Gindhart

Dissertation project:

The night is a natural phenomenon which has a significant impact on human life. Accordingly, in Greek literature night figures prominently and in manifold ways. It is either mentioned briefly or it serves as setting for longer passages.

The aim of the dissertation is to examine extensively the occurrences of night in Greek texts of the archaic and classical era (from about 8th to 5th century BCE) and to explore concepts of night in literary structures. The focus will be on poetical texts from Homer to the Attic tragedy as well as the texts of the classical historians in the field of prose. Further, attention will be paid to the reception of those text passages as well as on other genres and cultures in order to shed light on the subject’s universality.

A particular challenge will be the fact that night is rarely characterised explicitly in those texts or described with regard to its significance for human beings. Therefore, it will be necessary to draw conclusions based on the literary representation about concepts and connotations of night. At the same time, the function of night as a literary element will be traced in each text or genre.

Special attention will be paid to the strong polarisation inherent in the concepts of night. Night is frequently perceived and depicted in an evaluative manner (a negative perception is prevalent, but not compulsory). But it can also be observed a more general tension between establishing and breaking of structures. The recurring nature of night provides a structure to human life and induces to develop special patterns for night activities. Otherwise, night appears as a point of time predestined for transgression and dissolution of structures, as in the case of ambushes or in situations of grief.