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Antigone’s Two Laws: Greek Tragedy and the Future of Humanism

  • Location: Linda Singer Memorial Lecture, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio

Mar 2010, Bonnie Honig

Antigone’s Two Laws: Greek Tragedy and the Future of Humanism

5pm on March 4th, 2010

Sophocles' Antigone is THE text of civil disobedience. And yet its heroine is most often read in terms of her ethics rather than her politics. Focusing on one speech that attracts the ire and admiration of critics, which Creon describes as her dirge for herself, this lecture tracks the strategies whereby Antigone tries to make room for political dissidence. In her last speech, Antigone says she would not have violated Creon's edict against burying her brother on behalf of husband or children because she could always have others, but (with her parents dead) only her brother is irreplaceable. Humanist critics from Goethe to Jebb find the speech abhorrent while anti-humanists like Lacan admire it as a manifestation of Antigone's monstrous desiring commitment to her singular brother. Both sides elide the politics of the speech, and position it as (anti)ethical. This paper argues for a political reading of the speech which Antigone parodies, cites, and mimics Creon, Pericles, and a story from Herodotus in an effort to intervene in 5th century burial politics, kinship politics, and polis politics. The talk closes with a discussion of some contemporary Antigones and a reading of Michael Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9-11.

To see this event's poster:  click here.


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