It follows that the origins of history are figured in myth, demonstrated in Herodotus’ account of the Persian Wars, involving an etiological, justificatory, and symbolic myth of the Alkmaionids, and in the dramatization of Thucydides’ work, including allusions to the Iliad (notably ironic after his condemnation of poetic amplification over impartial truth). History develops from a kind of mythic emulsion and enigmatically manifests itself in texts that claim to repudiate a similar oral and literary tradition, even surfacing in books that survey philosophical doctrine and models of justice, like Plato’s The Republic and its distortionary Myth of Metals. Though I do not wish to propose that myth engenders history, or to falsely glean fantastical properties from the archives of a previous era, one must recognize this anteriority and register the Greek legends that disturb the past. In a critique of Claude Levi-Strauss’ “controversial hypothesis that all myths are in fact variations (‘transformations’) of one Ur-myth, the Promethean stealth of fire from the heavens,” I examine the adaptation and association inherent in history and mythology. Delving into the liminal space amidst classical convention and modern innovation, I analyze the dynamism that underlies this dialectical oscillation, perhaps epitomized by Yannis Ritsos’ oeuvre – The Fourth Dimension. A prominent, Left-leaning figure in the twentieth-century Greek literary Renaissance, Ritsos first publishes The Fourth Dimension in 1972, inaugurating a realm of temporal ambiguity in a collection of modern and mythical poems. Rejecting the appropriation of a foreign, oriental myth, like Bertolt Brecht, and consciously moving away from myth as an apparatus for the “existentialist quest for the human soul,” like Jean-Paul Sartre, Ritsos positions his work in Greek antiquity “not out of some Parnassian, classicist or romantic revisiting,” but because the Greek space is “where myth resides.” Composed of seventeen extended, dramatic soliloquies, The Fourth Dimension exists as a dialectical montage of verbal photographs, reflecting features of the autobiographical and socio-political milieu of its author. The enumerative and succinct form of the text, a series of patient monologues between a dominant speaker and a silent Other, intimates a diachronic, mythological-historical process, juxtaposing young and old, poor and rich, male and female, and past and present to generate a dissonance between introspection and action that maps Ritsos’ internal struggle onto the collection’s reader. The psychic fragmentation and dyadic nature of the individual stills subsequently expand onto the work as a whole, thrusting each isolated being into conversation with one another. By creating a disparate linearity between the horrors of the House of Atreus and the recurring presence of various simulacra that beset each elegiac frame, Ritsos ultimately demythologizes famous Gods and heroes to embrace a “timeless synchronicity.”As the work progresses, transitioning from the proto-cinematic lens of “The Window” to a catalog of myth that spawns from Mycenae’s Lion Gate and finally to the recognition of that stranger who steps out of the photograph in the opening pages of the work, the reader learns to listen to each speaker, devoid of preconceived notions, and to accept the tragic value that each soliloquy holds. Through this heuristic mode, The Fourth Dimension deconstructs the barriers that separate the second dimension from the fourth, allowing each monumental, now familiar figure to have “their time.” Gods become human and interact with the living, while Ritsos’ anachronistic intrusions gain acceptance and mold to his re-imagined world. Analogous to Brecht’s Epic Theater, Ritsos plays with familiar frameworks and traditional tales to emphasize the subversion of myth taking place; The Fourth Dimension compresses the immeasurable actions of ancient Deities and epic personas into redolent monologues, where the audience is “unable to accept either myth or history as a transparent reflection of reality.” It follows that we become “involved in the active construction of meaning from the disparate elements available,” made to examine the variation inherent in this act of demythologization. The Fourth Dimension asks its reader to interpret this “assemblage” of past and present, offering a portal into Ritsos’ temporally confused domain.Present scholarship regarding The Fourth Dimension often rushes to unveil Ritsos’ poetic mask, stripping the mythic features of the collection to reveal the circumstances of its publication and the political dissension that motivates its memorial form. As Michael Jeffreys states in his perceptive article, “Reading in the Fourth Dimension,” to which this chapter owes much of its consolidation of criticism on Ritsos’ body of work (almost all circulating articles currently written in Greek), scholars “primarily analyze the poetry to search for the poet,” “there is less emphasis on reading and reception, on application of the results…so as to explore their literary possibilities.” Taking Jeffreys’ analysis as a point of departure, and building upon Marinos Pourgouris’ recent, pioneering investigation of Marxist dialectics in The Fourth Dimension, I aim to synthesize the reception of Ritsos’ adapted myth and the critical theory behind this seminal work to expose the text’s revolutionary implications. Instead of sifting through Ritsos’ revised legends to uncover what lies beneath the apparitions of the past, or reading the fantastical elements of The Fourth Dimension as a gateway beyond our material world, we must accept these illusions as an expression of the author’s political agency – as a means of comprehending the power of myth today.In this chapter, I draw from Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes, contemporaries of Ritsos who have previously been ignored in the study of The Fourth Dimension. To fully comprehend the intentions of the poet, and in particular, the move of demythologization that he makes, one must first consider Ritsos’ autobiographical background, locating his writing in its volatile, historical moment, before delving into the applied critical theory that informs this examination. Jeffreys contends that “the story of the writing and publication of the poems of Yannis Ritsos mirrors the disturbed history of Greece” and I therefore refrain from an overly detailed account of this relationship. Rather, I acknowledge the disturbed environment in which Ritsos sets out to compose his collection and the political and psychological torment that surfaces within The Fourth Dimension, thereby completing the dialectical exploration that he and Pourgouris begin. Combining elements of Ritsos’ troubled childhood, characterized by tuberculosis and familial death, and memories of decaying homes and derelict sculptures in Monemvasia, most prevalent in “The Dead House” and “Under the Shadow of the Mountain,” the text proves to establish Greek myth in the author’s deteriorating world.Twentieth-century Greece is a turbulent landscape for literary publication, especially for a Marxist author like Ritsos. The circulation of The Fourth Dimension occurs in chaotic intervals, interrupted by bouts of tuberculosis, which cause the death of Ritsos’ mother and eldest brother, as well as censorship and concentration camps that constrain his adult life. Because of the Metaxas dictatorship of 1936 and the Greek military junta of 1976, periods of authoritarian rule and fear limit Ritsos’ poems’ release. Ritsos bares the influence of this record on his text’s style and form, reflecting the devolution of the Greek state after the Communist purging of Zarchariadis in 1956 and the fascist coup that leads to his house arrest on Yiaros and Leros in 1967. Whether it be seen in the use of dramatic staging after 1960 (introducing the epilogues we see today), or the appropriation of myth during the junta years (previously unexplored in Ritsos’ work), The Fourth Dimension undoubtedly engages with its historical moment. The poems penned after 1960 may lack unambiguous political references akin to Ritsos’ earlier publications, but a revolutionary dynamism still materializes in the work. Ritsos rejects overt references and embeds a radical message in his mythic characters instead, showing “the construction of a specifically Greek symbolism for the Left after the Second World War, in response to the nationalism of the Right.” Like an early version of Electra that develops in “The Dead House,” Ritsos “mixes up mythology, history, and his own private life,” blending features of the past and present to enter the fourth dimension.During this nineteen-year span, Ritsos composes twenty-seven poems under the umbrella of his collection while struggling to balance “timeless” and direct poetry when dealing with the “loss of past certainties.” Although he eventually displays a preference for the former, highlighting “the mythic dimension, the pre-extant magic of distance, the sudden music of anachronisms…the thoughtful movement of language caused by emotion and meaning filtered by the centuries, which is not subject to the compulsion of the breathless moment,” political allusions in The Fourth Dimension undeniably remain. Ritsos actively incorporates “historic sentiment” into the aesthetic, moving away from verse that is more “rhetoric than poetry.” As Chrysa Prokopaki and Giorgos Veloudis note, Ritsos screens historical memory through the present, imbuing Greek memory and myth with contemporary problems. Ritsos’ final process of selection displays the intentionality of this abstraction, explicating the transformation of the anthology’s form in this act of excerption:While Ritsos eradicates The Fourth Dimension’s partisan substance from the surface of the text, distancing himself from the retribution of the Greek authoritarian regime, he weaves a thread of political rebellion through his mythological-historical soliloquies. These allusions may be traced within the collection’s imaginary figures and monologues, appearing in and between their epitaphs. This becomes clearer upon considering the reconfiguration of The Fourth Dimension’s order, for as the poet’s national setting and personal life deteriorate, the sequence of the poems shift. Ritsos manipulates The Fourth Dimension’s soliloquies to repudiate the traditional succession of myth, exploding history’s “continuum” in a paradoxical performance of mythic recurrence. Historiography “functions as myth; it reassures us about our honored place in history as the heirs of the Greeks, and confirms that existence is meaningful,” and by forsaking these illusory heroes, who have become part of a Greek history, Ritsos rejects the basis of fascism and its claim as the culmination of a Social Darwinist struggle. Ritsos denies the futurist myth of historical evolution before paradoxically recognizing an indebtedness to this very past, allowing the work to transcend singularity and betray the chronological progression of time.Susan Buck-Morss’ The Dialectics of Seeing, a mimetic extrapolation of Benjamin’s Passagen-Werk (“Arcades Project”), provides a lens for this investigation, illustrating the prevalence of myth in a bourgeois realm. Buck-Morss explicates what she deems Benjamin’s “double dream theory” in her work, delving into the “polemical field between two series of dreams or fantasies,” which embrace a recurrence of the past. Similar to Freud’s analysands, Benjamin impels his reader into one delusion, only to tear them from this world and plunge them into another, pitting the phantasmagoria of “fashion” against a mediating realm of “repetition-as-difference.” Benjamin denies a Hellish repetition, parsing the discrepancy between the eternal return of the same and the eternal return of the identical, for the “dialectical images” he studies distinguish (commodity) “fetishism” from the text’s “utopian” end. Although Benjamin’s fragmentary notes are not published until 1982 (the original manuscript of the “Arcades Project” disappearing in 1940 as Benjamin flees Nazi France), I read Buck-Morss reconstruction of these “commodity graveyards” and The Fourth Dimension in an analogous manner. Ritsos theorizes an archaeology of myth, like Benjamin’s examination of the Parisian arcades, crafting and destroying a dream world of mythical figures to defeat the authoritarian “replication” machine.Borrowing from Pourgouris, I read The Fourth Dimension as a reply to Herbert Marcuse’s “call for an elucidation of the position of Marxist aesthetics on Greek art” – a text that “testifies both to Ritsos’ familiarity with Marxist dialectics and to his uncomfortable position as a modern Greek poet (‘a porter of ailing generations with weights on my back’).” Ritsos’ alignment with a Marxist tradition is well-documented, his meditations in “???????????” further supporting this assertion: Little by little I stuffed my headwith Marx, Engels, Lenin, Bebel and BukharinSo here I am, I’ve acquired the skillto make judgements dialectically. Situating Ritsos in this conversation around dialectical materialism, we may examine The Fourth Dimension and its “problematic sphere,” using a Marxist background to understand the interpolation of mythic and historic time. Ritsos not only blurs the boundaries between the living and the dead, but he also comments on the persistence of Greek culture and literature by resurrecting and repressing archaic art in a modern realm. The Fourth Dimension reveals how “historical truth,” when repeated as myth, “cannot be infinitely meaningful,” “re-imagining a decaying mythological world” and its “unresolved opposition between the old and the new” to deny a fascist apotheosis. Although scholars, like Pourgouris, have studied the relationship between Ritsos’ text and Marx’s theory of dialectical materialism, critics continually stop short of Ritsos’ final turn. The Fourth Dimension confuses mythic and historic time to subvert history, but the stakes of Ritsos’ work extend beyond a mere devaluation of the past. I argue that Ritsos utilizes archaic myth in an exploration of the psychic state of a Greek present to destroy the “mythic immediacy” of his twentieth-century political landscape. Historic knowledge may be the antidote to a bourgeois or fascist disease, depriving the state of its authority in an exposition of a pseudo-nihilistic eternal recurrence, but it is only through an appropriation of the role of the “mythologist” that Ritsos may parse the discrepancy between “meaning” and “form,” revealing how history becomes hollow before illuminating the past he has discredited as the only cure. Similar to Benjamin’s Passagen-Werk, Ritsos seeks to evoke a “perverse awakening” from the very dream he attempts to induce, recognizing that “the best weapon against myth is to perhaps mythify it in its turn.” The Fourth Dimension searches for the historic knowledge that lies “discarded and forgotten…buried within surviving culture, remaining invisible precisely because it is of so little use to those in power,” catalyzing a “rescue operation” that may “free the present from myth.” Through The Fourth Dimension’s use of windows, mirrors, and anachronisms, Ritsos depicts, similar to the photograph, what is latent in this mourning of mythology: “the return of the dead.” The Fourth Dimension opens with “The Window,” a way out for the author and a way in for the reader. The speaker, removed from the mythical past of the ancient figures that follow, finds himself lodged behind two sheets of glass, “forced to see, to want, yet not to move.” Signifying the dialectical dissonance that haunts the ensuing soliloquies, Ritsos juxtaposes a desire for action with the unhindered potential that stems from silence and immobility. Bound by a transparency that becomes as “suffocating” as it is liberating, the stranger, like a fish with its “mouth open,” tries to find the surface, to gasp for air, to escape the pressure of “the infinite, dangerous view.” But “pressed…between wall and windowpane,” apprehensive of “shattering the glass,” he is restrained to vocalization, the moisture of his breath simply obscuring what lies ahead. Ritsos traps the stranger in a translucent coffin that symbolizes the physical manifestation of The Fourth Dimension, this Greek everyman taking on the burden of the poet as he illustrates how publication from an authorial perch can never be enough. Ritsos must knock down his walls, even if they be “clear,” to reclaim the agency of his state and the Greek people below, summoning myth to cross this threshold and enter the material world.This “stranger,” devoid of context and name, nevertheless belongs to an individual and collective history, whether it be a past as immediate as the intertextuality of his “springtime hyperbole” or as distant as the statues that overlook the deserted streets of Greece. Though his dialogue fluctuates between immersion and withdrawal, he comes to understand that his window – a tomb – may not be sold, for he cannot “take refuge in someone else.” He recognizes the essential worth of old photographs and acknowledges the abandoned ships, dismembered bodies, and drooping flags that pervade his landscape, conceding an obligation to a personal and collective Greek past. The stranger ultimately accepts his uneasy position as a corporeal being in a grander scheme, closing the window, walking to the end of the jetty, and interacting with a world he has only previously observed.Ritsos’ hopes to accomplish this very act of connection in The Fourth Dimension, moving beyond his state of discord through a process of repudiation, reflection, revolution, and release. The stranger’s indebtedness to history is precisely what The Fourth Dimension seeks to destabilize, seen as early as the second monologue, “Winter Clarity,” where the dead “twitch their nostrils” and begin to stir. Here, Ritsos examines a notary’s house and its openness to the world. Typified by a “breath-catching translucency” that has “nothing of its own to hold onto,” Ritsos contends that preservation is impossible, “the moth reigns” – nothing escapes decay. Yet, he also asks, “what more can a moth eat from what’s already eaten?” Immortality is seen to be futile and the images that for the stranger were “indispensable” have now “lost their force and their color and little by little have lost their meaning.” Similar to Marx in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and Nietzsche in his Untimely Meditations, Ritsos “presents the past as a problem: as an impediment to change, a disincentive to action, a source of ennui and despair.” Ritsos denies putting unnecessary weight on former epochs and rejects drawing our contemporary experience from these earlier periods, for the revolution of the twentieth-century ought to be derived from its own historical moment. This notion is reinforced at the end of “Winter Clarity,” when “the man who was writing the history of a house that had remained without history packs up his papers and the house rediscovers its history.” The Fourth Dimension demonstrates how engaging with the present, rather than trying to define or conserve the past, is actually what keeps a prior memory alive. To achieve our desired rebellion, we must become “unhistorical” and “let dead bury the dead.” The Fourth Dimension’s suppression of history is exemplified by “Helen,” the casus belli of the Trojan War who defines archaic myth.