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Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor in Political Science Inaugural Lecture, "Antigone, Interrupted: Greek Tragedy and the Future of Humanism"

  • Location: Northwestern University

Feb 2010, Bonnie Honig

ABF Research Professor Bonnie Honig delivered her inaugural lecture as the Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor in Political Science, Northwestern University, on Tuesday, February 9, 2010.

To watch a video of this lecture on YouTube:  Click Here

"Antigone, Interrupted: Greek Tragedy and the Future of Humanism"

In Sophocles’ Antigone, the classic text of civil disobedience, the heroine gives two conflicting reasons for her violation of the edict against burying her dead brother, Polynices (condemned to exposure for attacking the city). First, Antigone says the dead are all equal and so all deserve proper burial regardless of their acts in life. Later, she says she would have violated the edict for no one but her brother, who is singularly irreplaceable and unique. Critics have long been troubled by this apparent contradiction.

This lecture explores the contradiction, finds it makes sense in relation to certain contextual and textual details and, moreover, finds in it not a problem that needs solving but rather the core of a democratic theory committed to both equality and singularity. Approaching Antigone in the context of political theory that is both classical (Nicole Loraux) and contemporary (Hannah Arendt and Jacques Ranciere), Professor Honig develops the play’s significance for us today by reading it in the context of 5th century practices of burial and in relation to the ancient and modern practice of shtadlanut. Shtadlanut is a Hebrew term for the historical practice which originates in the Hebrew Bible and recurs in early modern Jewish political life in which the weak or powerless approach the palace gates to appeal to distant rulers for mercy. The lecture closes with a reading of Michael Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11 as an exploration and performance of shtadlanut today.

To see the announcement for this event please click here.

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