The Metaphorical Use of the Cave in Greek Literature: A Semiotic Approach

Dr Agathi Georgiadou
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This paper briefly explores the metaphorical significance of the cave in ancient Greek authors, such as Homer, Sophocles and Plato, in which the cave is connected with grief and lament, love and death. It then proceeds to analyse the semiotic use of the cave in Modern Greek poetry and prose, with special reference to the works of Alex. Papadiamantis, Str. Doukas, G. Seferis, O. Elytis, R. Galanaki, etc. In most works, as in many cultures and religions, the cave symbolises a secret, dark and often hostile space, a long, tortuous intellectual journey from darkness to light, utopia to reality, ignorance to knowledge, etc. In most references, the cave has two entrances: one facing the light (hope) and the other facing the darkness (death). The sea is often visible from the cave, with various semiotic connotations. The heroes either enter the cave or abandon it. The entrance of the hero into the obscure cave constitutes an exploration of his personal labyrinth, a journey to the dark kingdom of death and a return to the ancient uterus with rebirth following. Into the cave, the hero fights with evil and his conscience. In poetry especially, the cave has erotic connotations: entering the cave means succumb to instinct, which counterbalances the instinct of death. Abandoning the cave may mean meeting either life or death.

Keywords: Cave, Hostile Space, Darkness, Light, Love and Death, Labyrinth, Knowledge, Evil, Instinct
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Semiotic Use of the Cave in Classical and Modern Greek Literature, The

Dr Agathi Georgiadou

Teacher of Classics, Ministry of Education, Pedagogical Institute of Greece

I was born in Cyprus. I have studied Classics at Athens University and received my Ph.D at King's College London. My thesis' title is "Political Terminology and Ideology in Thucydides". I have taught for one year at the Faculty of Arts, University of Crete, and several years in Greek secondary public schools. I have worked for the Education Research Centre of Greece for six years taking part in research projects on evaluation, in the PISA project of the OECD and other activities of the Centre. For the last two years I have been working for the Pedagogical Institute of the Ministry of Education of Greece. Among my duties is giving seminars to in-service teachers on Classics and Literature. I am also a trainer in the Initial Teacher Training Programmes of the Ministry of Education. I have written several educational books and articles on Ancient Greek and Modern Literature and I have participated in Conferences on Education and Literature.

Ref: H05P0500