New York University
Program in Dramatic Literature
(Fall 2016)

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Course Description:

“Antigone, one of the most sublime and in every respect most excellent works of art of all time.”

— G. W. F. Hegel

Sophocles’ Antigone is one of the most important – and widely interpreted – dramatic texts in Western literature. Indeed, in his Antigones, George Steiner demonstrates how philosophers and artists alike have taken this drama (and not Oedipus) to be “not only the finest of Greek tragedies, but a work of art nearer to perfection than any other produced by the human spirit.” Antigone has been central for philosophical conceptions of tragedy and the tragic. She was a recurring protagonist for the historical avant-garde. More recently, Antigone has become a centerpiece for thinking about feminism and politics. Why Antigone? Why Antigone? This course will explore some of the reasons this particular play has captured so many imaginations – and continues to do so. As we read and reread Antigone in different translations, adaptations, and philosophical interpretations, we will explore the play’s investigations of citizenship, law, gender, kinship, resistance to authority, religion, family, and the state, as well as ask a number of broader questions about the relationships between theater and theory, performance and philosophy: What do theory and theater have in common, and what can they learn from each other? How does theater constitute a laboratory for aesthetic, conceptual, and political experimentation? How does theoretical philosophy depend on models of knowledge and action that derive from theater? And in what sense is theorizing not simply an act of abstraction, but a performative act as well?