This thesis proposes that instead of a ‘tragic hero’, tragedies portray a ‘tragic hearth’, exposing the collective suffering of everyone associated with the portrayed hearth. Significant to this argument is the Ancient Greek’s deification of the hearth represented by the goddess Hestia. The re-centring of the hearth reveals the self as permanently connected to familial others, challenging notions of individualism and autonomy. The implication of this finding reverberates through the Western tragictradition, where analysis of the autonomous ‘tragic hero' fails to fully capture the tragic depth of the disruption to the collective identity. Through close textual analysis this dissertation argues that the deification of the hearth carries ontological notions of belonging and connectedness. I do not argue that a character is born with a predetermined sense of being, instead a character is born into a particular hestian identity, from which being emerges. In order to discern the preoccupations associated with the goddess Hestia, this thesis first proposes a poetics of the hearth, where relational, spatial, and temporal notions of the self merge. The relational aspect attached to the hearth is evident in the sacred laws regarding incest, kin-killing, proper burial, and the treatment of guests. These laws regulate behaviour toward ‘one’s own’, both kin and non-kin members connected to the hearth. To this end, a hestian reading of Greek tragedy positions the displaced individual—separated, isolated and without a earth—as the condition that unequivocally elicits the Aristotelian notion of ‘pity and fear’.
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2014.