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  • Interrogating Antigone in Postmodern Philosophy and Criticism ed. by S.E. Wilmer, Audronė Žukausaitė
  • Brenda Donohue
S.E. Wilmer and Audronė Žukausaitė, eds. Interrogating Antigone in Postmodern Philosophy and Criticism. Oxford Classical Presences Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. xiv + 429, illustrated. $150.00 (Hb).

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This extensive collection of essays investigates the figure of Antigone and Sophocles’s drama Antigone from various theoretical standpoints and poses a number of compelling and pertinent questions about Antigone as a mythical and fictional character and about Antigone as an enduring text. The overarching theoretical line that unites the various analyses is postmodern theory and criticism. The collection asks: how has the Antigone myth been viewed and interpreted historically? What factors prevented the Antigone complex occupying as important a place in philosophical and psychoanalytical discourse as the Oedipus complex did? What can Antigone mean in contemporary bio-political and gendered contexts? What does the performance of Antigone mean in differing cultural and historical contexts? Can she stand for both resistance and conformance? Interrogating Antigone proposes several provocative and stimulating answers to these wide-ranging questions, suggesting that the denial of a central position to Antigone in philosophical discourse can be attributed to her gender, that the play can have manifold significances in modern political contexts, and that the character can represent a variety of political and social positions.

A number of theoretical approaches divides the book into four distinct sections. The first examines Antigone under the lenses of philosophy and politics in an attempt to “question and reframe the political space using the conceptual tools taken from contemporary philosophy” (6); the second applies the tests of psychoanalysis and the law to the text and figure of Antigone; the third uses gender as the analytical tool to reassess the subordination of the Antigone figure in relation to Oedipus, with the aim of “formulating an alternative account of sexual differences and kinship system”; while the final section on translation, adaptation, and performance examines the text in performance in differing international and historical contexts in an attempt to understand the enduring popularity of Antigone (11). The book is comprehensive in its investigations and, as such, will inevitably appeal to scholars from many different disciplines and backgrounds.

While the initial sections of the collection will appeal to scholars in the areas of philosophy, psychoanalysis, bio-politics, and gender studies, the final section will undoubtedly be of primary interest to theatre scholars. Here, the theoretical discussions found earlier in the book are easily and fluidly incorporated into analyses of selected Antigone performances. Deborah H. Roberts opens the section with an article that, in examining the available English translations of Sophocles’s classic, highlights how some translations (especially that of Robert Fagles) have become so familiar a reference point for scholars that they come to replace the original Greek text, creating a normative English version of Antigone. As translations are often influenced by the interpretation and ideological stance of the translator, Roberts warns that such a reliance on a few dominant English translations [End Page 139] fosters our dependence on a particular set of interpretations that may or may not be prominent in the original Greek.

The performance and adaptation of Sophocles’s text in differing political and historical contexts is explored in Erika Fischer-Lichte’s “Politicizing Antigone,” in María Florence Nelli’s “From Ancient Greek Drama to Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ – Antígona Furiosa: On Bodies and the State,” in Astrid Van Weyenberg’s “Revolutionary Muse – Fémi Òsófian’s Tègonni: An African Antigone,” and in S.E. Wilmer’s “Performing Antigone in the Twenty- First Century.” The section illustrates how Antigone is eminently suitable for adaptation to differing cultural and political contexts, given that it explores “the unstable and conflicting relationship between individual and state/community” (352). Fischer-Lichte’s and Weyenberg’s articles illustrate the flexibility of Antigone to deliver a variety of messages that can function either to confirm the status quo or to seek to resist it.

The strength of this collection lies in the consonance of such performance analyses with the theoretical explorations presented in the preceding sections. Nelli’s and Wilmer’s contributions...


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pp. 138-141
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