Why is this? Theorists operating out of the continental tradition today suffer from an appalling lack of imagination and creativity. They return to the same old examples over and over again, ignoring huge amounts of new and exciting material in favor of safely sticking with what others have talked about especially those others around whom scholarly personality cults have been erected.
Is psychoanalytic metapsychology really going to benefit from yet another exegesis of Greek tragedy, in particular, from one more re-examination of Sophocles? Much of the richness contained in Sophoclean tragedy has already been brought out by a huge number of extant commentaries and critical engagements. Is there anything more to be gained by going back over this well-trodden ground? Instead, she employs this text as a springboard for continuing long-running discussions from her earlier works. Antigone also endures two traumas. First, she accompanies her father on his sad, painful wanderings after he exiles himself from Thebes upon realizing the truth of his act of parricide and maternal incest.
Her love for the dead man drives her to a suicidal confrontation with Creon, a sacrificial gesture in which she dies in the name of the dead.
Antigone dares to challenge the authority of a masculine king in the most forceful and public of ways. How does she exploit the elements of this tragedy to reinforce her theses about gender, kinship, identity, and performativity? As noted above, Butler is mainly interested in using Sophocles to conduct a debate with Hegel and Lacan. If the purpose of kinship relations is to produce citizens for the polis , then the political infrastructure itself is, obviously, reliant upon these kinship relations functioning in ways that lead to the re production of the polis hence the socio-political importance of norms bearing upon familial patterns.
Hegel, unlike Butler, refuses to depict Antigone as a heroic figure. She favors the obligations of blood ties at the expense of politically defined duties. Butler is convinced that this Hegelian bias rests upon the false belief that familial kinship and political citizenship can be cleanly separated from each other, and that the latter can be granted priority over the former.
One of his main points there is that the kinship positions within the family are always-already defined and mediated by enveloping socio-political institutions. Regardless of what he says about Antigone , is Hegel guilty of the arguments that Butler imputes to him? The amount of time and effort spent on Hegel is minimal compared with the space Butler devotes to Lacan. She attacks Lacan for his structuralist transcendentalism, taking aim at what she understands to be the core tenets of his psychoanalytic theoretical system in its entirety.
Its function is to transcendentalize its claims, but this is not the same as saying that it has or maintains a transcendental ground. Although a few Lacan-inspired authors should be rebuked along these lines, Butler makes a straw man out of Lacan himself. Taking such complications into consideration would demand of Butler that, at a minimum, she add a little more subtlety to her position contra Lacan.
Every individual human being is born into a world always-already shaped by linguistic, social, and political forms of existence. An easy way to clarify matters here is to invoke the Freudian distinction between phylogeny and ontogeny.
The symbolic order is a historically contingent formation at the phylogenetic level, the level transcending the ontogenetic life history of the individual. In an inverse correlation, for the particular subject whose self-identity is mediated by this pre-existent system, this same symbolic order is effectively transcendental in that it serves as a possibility condition for this form of subjectivity itself. One could perhaps say that the massive time lag between the different diachronic speeds of phylogeny and ontogeny is partially responsible for this dual status of the symbolic as paradoxically both historical with respect to the phylogenetic collective and transcendental with respect to the ontogenetic individual.
Again, the transcendence of the symbolic order in relation to particular subjects is of paramount importance here. Individuals neither choose what kind of symbolic order to be born into nor have the liberty to capriciously forge their own idiosyncratic symbolic orders ex nihilo. Saying otherwise is simply to misunderstand what a symbolic order is by definition.
Is Lacan wrong to presuppose that some kind of socio-linguistic system pre-dates the entry of each individual into the world? What does this have to do with the disagreement at hand? The subject of psychoanalysis is a genetic one, a subjectivity that acquires its very foundations through the unfolding vicissitudes of various levels of mediation especially the family as the first social context encountered by the impressionable psyche of the nascent subject-to-be.
However, the analytic caveat in this context is that transgressions are always, at least in part, reactions against a reigning norm. The power of early familial ties is not limited to the common conception of the Oedipus complex as positively conditioning the libidinal economy i. Again, Butler is correct to observe that symbolic structures are never flawlessly reproduced. To put it in the simplest of terms, children never turn out to be exact replicas of their parents, regardless of whether or not the parents want this.
Butler wants to believe that these spectral structures haunting human social reality can be exorcised, that one can eliminate the often painful and undesirable effects of their non- presence. The Lacanian qualification, being the little difference that makes all the difference, amounts to insisting that non-existent, fantasmatic elements play a necessary, constitutive role in the forging and sustenance of human experiential reality, and that these unconscious fantasies, although variable, resist unrestricted modification at the behest of the subjected subject.
Should one risk replying in the same terms? And, she repeatedly fails to mention a single word about the super-ego as a possible barrier inhibiting or perverting enacted rebellions.
One feels tempted to ask exactly who is doing the fantasizing here. Although a philosopher, for example, might want to use a scene from a novel as an example of a certain description of a human emotional reaction, those accepting a deconstructionist view dogmatically insist that this philosopher cannot cordon off this borrowed part of the novel as a mere metaphor or subservient, secondary representation of a purely intellectual form.
Those features not mentioned by the theoretical borrower of the literary text can be used to internally dismantle the conceptual architecture of the philosophical edifice into which literature has been invited. Why this is always the case remains a bit of a mystery. The play furnishes Freud with a handy name for his notion of the relation between psyche and family. Using, as Butler does, a fictional character to contest a body of knowledge built on the study of factual individuals is an approach of highly questionable worth.
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The third and final chapter circumnavigates its way back towards the play Antigone. Thus, the body of Polyneices might very well be an overdetermined object in the strict Freudian sense i. As the chorus says, Antigone is in love with death. Many interpreters portray Antigone as a heroine. Such hints abound in the play. They are interested in epistemology and ethics, but more in ethics as it is manifested in the political rather than the domestic sphere.
They ask how we know the truth about anything in worlds where individual histories are erased and false histories manufactured. But this is not done in a neutral, extreme relativist way that denies the existence of underlying truths, nor refuses to take a moral position in respect of the conflicting accounts. It is important, therefore, to ask how they look from a diachronic perspective. Is this cluster of strategies something presaged in the Greek tragic interests of Eliot and Hardy, or is it a new departure better explained in terms of cultural developments contemporary with it, including the renaissance of Greek tragedy in performance since the late s?
The attraction of Greek tragedy to novelists partly results from its importance to some of their canonical nineteenth-century forebears, and subsequently to some distinguished Modernist and Postmodernist fiction writers, as we shall see. In some cases, interviews with the authors can establish that a particular production made a significant impression. Although some people meet Greek tragedy by quite different means, for example on law courses, where the Oresteia and Antigone are often compulsory reading, 27 the revival of Greek tragedy since the s, and especially the discovery of its radical potential for investigating issues relating to race and gender must have contributed in no small measure to the experiments with Greek tragedy in the novel.
Greek tragedy already exerted a fascination over some of the authors of the harbingers of Modernist fiction that reacted against the nineteenth-century tradition. This is crystallized in its uses of Greek tragedy. In his Les Enfants Terribles , for example, Jean Cocteau baffles his readers by demanding that they piece together fragments of information, thus subjecting them to a stiff epistemological workout.
This extends to explicit references to Greek tragic theatre when the troubled siblings Paul and Elizabeth face leaving the strange room in which they have been secreted for years, and try to make sense of the world around them: They don the buskins of the Attic stage and leave the underworld of the Atrides behind them. Divine omniscience will not suffice to shrive them; they must put their trust in the divine caprice of the Immortals. The epistemological conundra of Modernist fiction, therefore, in some senses prefigure the epistemological focus of the more recent novels which have been considered earlier in this article, although the subject positions that are often so baffling in the Modernist examples have been replaced in the recent category by more certainty about the identity of the narrator s ; there is also now a much greater sense of the importance of history, and of social and political commitment.
By the end of the s, Modernist fiction was with some justification being castigated by left-wing critics for having abandoned the representation of the real and historical in favour of politically and socially bankrupt technical experimentation. Here the primary philosophical focus is different. In his seminal Postmodern Fiction , Brian McHale argued however much he tried to play it down in subsequent works 32 that there was an identifiable shift from the epistemological concerns that dominated Modernist fiction in the s and s and the newly ontological questions raised by the Postmodernist novels of the post-war period.
The Antigone Complex
In the Postmodern novels with an ontological dominant, on the other hand, a labile, elusive and fluctuating world is perceived through an immutable, stable and unidentifiable subjectivity. As Alain Robbe-Grillet argued in For a New Novel , the writer has nothing to say: all that counts is the way that he says it. He demonstrated this paradigmatically Postmodern principle in The Erasers Les Gommes , , a send-up of genre fiction the detective story.
Les Gommes is a paradigmatic Postmodernist text because of its ontological focus: it portrays a thoroughly nebulous world perceived through as uninflected, unidentifiable and immutable a subjectivity as Robbe-Grillet could muster. The subject in this novel, even though he may be a goat or a man, is thoroughly stable; it is the world about him and the status of the novel itself that are debatable and permanently on the point of dissolution. In one scene, the hero actually encounters a woman who is reading not only Giles Goat-Boy , but the very scene from the novel in which she is a participant.
The world it creates is hypothetical. But it is, as far as it is safe to infer, the ruminations of a female professor of literature in a time when the humanities have become irrelevant and her own subjectivity is destabilized by the increasing technologization of the recording of experience.
Category: Literary Studies
As if for instance I were someone else, Cassandra perhaps, walking dishevelled the battlements of Troy, uttering prophecies from time to time unheaded and unheeded, before being allotted as a slave to victorious Agamemnon. Against this background, the uses of Greek tragedy by more recent novelists become distinctive.
My proposition is simply this: from nineteenth-century realist ethics to Modernism epistemology to Postmodernism ontology , we have moved into a new place where the dominant mode is once again ethical, but that those ethics are inseparable from a new interest in the politics of subjectivity. They are no longer secularized metaphysics, like the social and ethical interests of the nineteenth-century novel. They are, if you like, ethical—epistemological. Which character gets to tell the tale from his or her perspective has become the central, and usually politicized, interest. Yet these novels, although marking a new way of using Greek tragedy, are not at all exceptional when considered in a synchronic light which encompasses wider trends in contemporary writing, especially its re-instatement of the human subject at the heart of the literary project.
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The sense of crisis which Bonnefoy and Hassan were addressing and out of which the oralists were seeking an avenue of escape became inevitable when the experimental novels pioneered by Robbe-Grillet and Barth had run out of steam and Barth admitted that the novel might have reached the end of its useful life. But the novel did not die. A key factor in its resurgence in its newly ethical form has been the impact of the questioning of the traditional canon entailed by Postcolonial writing.
daigyppendpodec.tk From studying the biographical accounts of nineteenth-century slaves, and the ways that they were paternalistically framed by white emancipationists, Stepto develops a critique of the whole notion of narrative control, a critique in which objects become subjects and subjects interact with other subjects. A serious novelist who has achieved truly international popularity, Haruki Murakami, used Greek tragedy to underline the hybridity of global youth culture since the s in his Norwegian Wood , which secured his reputation worldwide.
Coleridge This article has attempted to foster interest in the under-researched area of the relationship between ancient Greek tragedy and recent fiction, while demonstrating the complexity of the practice of research into classical reception through a particular case study. It has identified a cluster of characteristics shared by some important and politically engaged works of fiction, dating from the late s, which use Euripidean tragedy in order to draw attention to the epistemological issue of narrative control.
Aristotle famously said that the difference between tragedy and history was that tragedy was more philosophical, since it dealt with what might happen, whereas history dealt with what had happened Poetics , Ch.
Related The Antigone Complex: Ethics and the Invention of Feminine Desire (Cultural Memory in the Present)
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