Foreign Languages & Literatures ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-2-2018


This thesis explores tragic drama as a corresponding ritual to the incubation ritual in the cult of Asclepius and theorizes that this ritual is psychologically cathartic and healing. I argue that in Ajax and Philoctetes, Sophocles marks this cathartic ritual through nosological language, setting, and social context. In my first chapter, I explore Sophocles’ use of the language of madness (mania) and illness (nosos) in Ajax to show the exacerbation of the audience’s psychological state. Next, I show that catharsis is achieved through the negotiation and subsequent burial of Ajax. In my second chapter, I argue that Sophocles uses both nosological and eremetic language in Philoctetes, together with the isolated and suggestive setting of Lemnos, to achieve catharsis. The drama accomplishes catharsis with the promise of Philoctetes’ healing by Machaon, son of Asclepius, and his reintegration into the Greek forces at Troy.


Sophocles, Ajax, Philoctetes, Catharsis, Asclepius, Healing

Document Type




Degree Name

Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures

First Committee Member (Chair)

Monica S. Cyrino

Second Committee Member

Lorenzo F. Garcia, Jr.

Third Committee Member

Osman Umurhan