By Bonnie Honig

Sophocles' Antigone is a touchstone in democratic, feminist and felony thought, and doubtless the main commented upon play within the heritage of philosophy and political thought. Bonnie Honig's rereading of it accordingly consists of intervening in a bunch of literatures and unsettling lots of their governing assumptions. Exploring the facility of Antigone in numerous political, cultural, and theoretical settings, Honig identifies the 'Antigone-effect' – which strikes those that enlist Antigone for his or her politics from activism into lamentation. She argues that Antigone's personal lamentations will be obvious not only as indicators of dissidence yet really as markers of a rival global view with its personal sovereignty and energy. Honig argues that the play doesn't provide easily a version for resistance politics or 'equal dignity in death', yet a extra confident politics of counter-sovereignty and harmony which emphasizes equality in lifestyles.

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But that aim is to some extent also undone by such classicization, which gives the impression that the pain to which mourning mothers appeal now is the same pain as that experienced by spectators at the tragic theater in the fifth century. Thus, maternal pain is universalized as both wide and deep: it is one unitary thing with which we are all familiar and it reaches all the way back to the fifth century. The problem is that this move, made in the name of politicization, works to distill our potentially powerful politics into the mortalist humanism criticized here for enacting the ethical turn away from politics.

Classicizing them, as so many do, is limiting as well, at least so long as such classicizations work to (re)produce Antigone simply as a mourning mother or sister, leaving behind the rivalry, violence, vengeance, promising, forgiveness, plotting, and conspiracy that may invite us to engage anew with the complexities of political life lived in connection with others. If grievability, and the Tragedy, maternalism, ethics 31 precariousness it postulates, secure equality, they do not only secure equality.

They are opposed, but they also intersect, as Henry Staten points out. ” Staten asks (though Staten admits the word used here is more elevated than Odysseus’ gastêr, which is a low diction) (1995: 45). 32 Does our analysis of grief in relation to appetite take us away from Sophocles’ Antigone, in which eros is invoked but no characters sate their appetites? In Pucci’s terms, after all, Sophocles’ play is (like all tragedies) all Achilles, no Odysseus. Indeed, we might see Sophocles’ Antigone as what is left of Achilles in the domesticated democratic polis (and this, I will suggest in Part II, all by itself may be a comment on the post-heroic form of life of fifth-century Athens/Thebes).

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