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Interrogating Antigone in Postmodern Philosophy and Criticism$
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S. E. Wilmer and Audrone Zukauskaite

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199559213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199559213.001.0001

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Naked Life; Arendt and the Exile at Colonus

Naked Life; Arendt and the Exile at Colonus

Chapter:
(p.48) 2 Naked Life; Arendt and the Exile at Colonus
Source:
Interrogating Antigone in Postmodern Philosophy and Criticism
Author(s):

Cecilia Sjöholm

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199559213.003.0003

The philosophical readings of Sophocles, from Hegel to Irigaray, have largely stuck to the tragedies as isolated plots, looking at Antigone or King Oedipus in their own right. Oedipus at Colonus, in turn, has rarely been made the object of a philosophical reading. And yet it presents to us a figure of high political significance: the refugee. What happens when we read Antigone with Oedipus at Colonus? As this chapter will argue, such a reading may well alter our view of Antigone from the way her character has been interpreted in the philosophical tradition, displacing the issues from being concerned with Antigone as a symbol of a feminine position in society, to placing the tragedy in relation to the question of the refugee. If we are to perform such a reading, we may resort to the work of Giorgio Agamben, and in particular, Hannah Arendt. Arendt does not perform a reading of Antigone, but as this chapter argues, Arendt's philosophy of the polis and of public space on the one hand, and her ideas on the position of the refugee, indicates a way of rereading Antigone with the latter work by Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus. Such a rereading points to an intrinsic relation between the notion of public space, and the question of ‘bare life’, a concept forwarded by Giorgio Agamben (inspired by Arendt). The characters of Antigone and Oedipus appear to unravel the exception and the foreclosure of the refugee in relation to political space. Rereading Antigone and Oedipus at Colonus through the philosophy of Arendt, we find that the tragedies are concerned with the emergence of a political community, and the laws conditioning the space of such a community. It may be the very exception of the refugee which, in the end, will serve to enforce the validity of such a space.

Keywords:   Sophocles, Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus, Greek tragedy, polis, Hannah Arendt, public space, bare life, refugee

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