From 2000, from some notes towards a proposal:
It can be easily noted that Hofmannsthal’s Elektra builds its plot upon who sees, who hears, who appears, who is heard. There is a thematic movement from sight to hearing, from appearance to words. At one point Elektra declares that her unheard word is inscribed in her appearance. It is easy to read this as a figuration of the work of language upon the body of the hysteric. But, can we read here two silences? The one of the living: the usual silence that awakens the psychoanalyst’s attention, i.e. the silence of the repressed (The hysteric does not speak but shows). Can the other, the truly other, silence be the listening of the dead? Elektra answers the dying Aegisth that Agememnon hears him. Agememnon is of course dead.
There is a silence which comes from the body of the speaker and there is a silence to which that body tends. Elektra enacts both.
Some further meditations, a decade on:
Of course many critics have focused upon Elektra’s cry at the end of the play (and of the libretto) with its call to be silent and dance. But that is not the end of the sequence. Elektra collapses. Chrysothemis calls out “Orest, Orest”. The brother’s name fills the silence. In the voice of the surviving sister invoking the brother, the living are at last addressing the living. The dance and the silence are displaced. They are in some sense mere prelude to the uttering of the name of the brother. Representative of the Law of the Father?
And so for day 1359