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Impossible Mourning: Sophocles Reversed


Focusing on the way in which sexual difference is articulated in Sophocles' Antigone, I offer a reading that reverses the dialectic most commonly ascribed to the play. While most interlocutors of this classic tragedy connect its heroine to divine law and the private realm and see Creon as a representative of human law and politics, I trace what I call a Sophoclean reversal at the core of the play, suggesting that, through a series of negations and contaminations, things are the opposite of what they seem to be. Using Hannah Arendt's distinction between the private and public realms as my main point of departure, I show how such a reading reveals the internal contradiction and inherent impossibility of a society whose foundation is the exclusion of women from political life. Such a society, just like Antigone, is an anti seed: it carries within it the necessity of its own downfall.