About the Project

The purpose of the project is to carry out a thorough and complete research on the reception of Ancient drama in Bulgaria from its earliest interpretations during the period of the National Revival up to this day, as well as its influence on contemporary Bulgarian culture in the context of the change in the ideological readings and the policies of understanding of our cultural and historical legacy. Through searching, systemizing and analysing of the various ways in which Ancient drama has entered Bulgarian culture – translations, stagings, works of art (literature, music, fine arts, cinema), presence of Ancient drama works in the secondary school curriculum – the project provides for creating a complete picture of their interaction, at the same time tracing the specifics of Bulgarian reaction to Ancient drama perceived as the fundament of European drama and as a source of universal ethical and aesthetic values and axioms.

The progress of reception studies of ancient drama in Bulgaria so far

The study of the European cultural legacy is a priority for most member countries of the EU. The study of the influence of Ancient drama on contemporary European culture is an inseparable part of it. All traces of Antiquity that still remain in contemporary culture can be uncovered only through a complex interdisciplinary approach to the huge mass of translations, stagings and reworkings. Numerous academic sessions dedicated to modern interpretations of Ancient drama have taken place in the last few years, such as the Belgrade conference on Ancient drama in 2008 in which members of the current project team participated.

Several researches in the field of Ancient literature’s reception have been carried out in the last decade in Bulgaria. One of them, dealing partly with the issue, is the research project undertaken by the Literary Institute at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences on the translation reception of European literatures in Bulgaria. The 3rd volume in the published series (2002) was dedicated to Ancient literature. It contains an analysis of all the accessible translations of Ancient Greek and Latin texts filed under authors and periods of publishing.

The problems of translation and reception found their way into higher education as well; courses dedicated to problems of reception of Classical literature, as well as reciting and translation of poetry, have been organized at the University of Sofia’s Department of Classics. Members of the Department have also created two web-sites dedicated to translation of Classical literature: Romulus Bulgaricus (http://romulus-bg.net/) for Roman literature and Theseus (http://theseus.proclassics.org/) for Greek literature. Both sites are in fact virtual libraries, each one with its own specific features: while Romulus puts the accent on historical data and realia found on the territory of Bulgaria, Theseus has been conceived as a space for debate on the problems of translation and as an academic and educational forum. A round table organized by the Theseus team on the transcription of Ancient names and realia will take place in July 2009. In 2000, the University of Plovdiv gathered a team working on several projects in related fields. The first one deals with the reception of Attic tragedy in Bulgaria resulting in the creation of the internet site Attica in Bulgaria, linked with http://www.ancientdrama.net/home/, a web-site dedicated to international research of Ancient drama. The projects that followed were The Text of Attic Tragedy and the Arts (The Case of Bulgaria) and The Text of Tragedy and the Stage (The Bulgarian Theatrical Reception of Attic Tragedy). The team also organized a workshop called “Who is Medea to us?” in 2008, and a similar workshop was held on Oedipus the King – “Oedipus’ Destiny – The Bulgarian Routes”.

The research of the processes of reception has been a dominant tendency in theatre study as well; there are several valuable studies on Bulgarian stage reception of authors such as Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, Dürrenmatt. The series “Bulgarian Theatre. Documentary Materials” by a team of academic collaborators at the Theatre section of the Institute of Art Studies to the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, systemizes theatre criticism since the very creation of Bulgarian theatre and provides valuable information on the impact of performances based on Ancient drama in Bulgaria.

In the last years, we have been witnessing more and more stage interpretations of Ancient drama works, such as the ‘Myths’ series of the Sfumato theatre, among others, as well as academic and philosophic seminars on the subject, such as Oedipus and the Political, a seminar organized at New Bulgarian University.

What lacks is a general view on these phenomena, and the current project has the ambition to fill the void and to suggest interpretations for the increasing interest in Ancient drama in Bulgarian culture.

Project Research and Results

The team’s intention is to give a multi-faceted picture of the presence of Ancient drama in contemporary Bulgarian culture and of all forms and stages of its interpretations. The project provides, on the one hand, for an interdiscipinary analysis of the types of reception, and, on the other hand, for a survey on the influence of Ancient tragedy and comedy on the contemporary status of Bulgarian culture.

The specific work and project activities are carried out in five directions:

  • translations
  • stagings and other forms of presentation close to them (theater)
  • original works of art on Ancient drama topics (literature, fine arts, music, cinema)
  • presence of texts of Ancient drama in the system of secondary education (education)
  • philological studies, commentaries and criticism, philosophical and other texts on the subject (scholarship, criticism, reviews).

As a result of the tracing and the analysis of the interaction of all those phenomena, we expect to create favourable conditions for more adequate academic interpretations of the texts in question (and for their more adequate presentation to a wider audience in a contemporary European context), as well as to improve the teaching of Ancient literature in the secondary school system according to the new trends of reforming and modernising the Bulgarian educational system.

The expected results from the data collection and research follow and aim at several investigation outputs:

  • accomplishment of the first general interdisciplinary research on the reception of Ancient drama;
  • a corpus of translated texts and original works of Bulgarian authors based on Ancient drama plots;
  • a catalogue of stagings of Ancient drama;
  • a corpus of educational programmes, schoolbooks and textbooks related to Ancient drama;
  • a collection of studies analysing the materials from the research;
  • creation and maintaining of an internet site dedicated to the reception of Ancient drama in Bulgaria.


The methods chosen are gathering and descriptive (in the creation of a corpus of translated texts, critical analysis and original works) as well as interpretative (in the creation of a collective volume of studies analysing the results).

Collection and description – mainly during the period of searching and describing the material and creating corpora. Elaborating of expert evaluations and short commentaries on findings.

Interpretative and comparative – mainly during the period of systemizing and analysing the gathered material. The approach to the work is an interdisciplinary one that combines research methods of literary theory, cultural studies, theatre studies and art theory due to the diversity of material and of the types of reception that it supports.

Digitization methods – use of the various possibilities of digital space (within the framework of the project’s web-site) in order to inform, to provide academic information for a broader audience, as well as to carry out a dynamic search and to process the Classical material.

Experimental method – an attempt to get closer to the original context of Ancient drama as a basic model of European theatre through modern theatre practices and gestures in order to project basic interdisciplinary codes (based on thorough academic research carried out during the work on the project). The results from these experiments will be analyzed and presented on the project’s site as well.

The future of the project research

More globally, as a final result of the project we expect our academic research to lead to a fundamental reconsideration of Ancient cultural legacy and its role in the shaping of Bulgarian national culture. Such reconsideration can influence substantially the methods of teaching of Ancient literature in secondary schools and universities, as well as the artists’ attitudes towards such cultural phenomena. In the field of theatre reception and original works of Bulgarian art, these results will serve as a prerequisite for a deeper understanding of the ethical universalia laid down in the Classical texts, of their historical specifics, of the various approaches in the possible treatment of such resources.