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Antigone's Mirrors: Reflections on Moral Madness Author(s): Annie Pritchard Source: Hypatia, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Summer, 1992), pp.

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Mirrors: Antigone's on MoralMadness Reflections


to attract attention Antigone continues for itsportrayal of thethemes Sophocles's In thispaperI arguethatthe contradictory of moralagencyand sexualdifference. social identitywork againstthe possibility Antigone's factorswhichconstitute of heractions as either "virtuous" ornot. I challenge of theplaywhich readings assessing or thatwomen's thatindividual moralagency is sexually neutral action either suggest in direct andsimply to theinterests is necessarily of thepublicsphere. opposition


In this paperI examinethe adequacy of the modelof individualmoralagency for women. I challenge the liberalclaim that the gender-neutral individual, detached from moral, social, and relational contexts is the most adequate account of the moral individual for a feminist ethics. I take up the radical feminist claim that the way in which we read the ethical actions of subjects cannot be separatedfrom the issue of gender, as moral agents are always who live within, and define themselves in termsof, specific subjects gendered ideologicalsystems. I raise these issuesby discussingSophocles' Antigone1 and suggestingthat many critics have mistakenly interpretedthe heroine by underplayingthe significanceof her genderand ignoringthe way in which competing ideological constructionsof her ethical frameof reference,such as family and civil society, clash with one another. I begin by looking at Hegel's reading of as an earlyattemptto challengethe accountof the individualethical Antigone agent who consciouslyweighs up conflicting moralclaims. Hegel doesthink that Antigone's gender is importantto the action of the play,but his reading simplifies important elements of the text. I discuss Hegel's account of the familialrole of women and indicate the limitationsof his readingof Antigone. Manycritics have seen the play as a clash of opposingviewpointsor opposing vol. 7, no. 3 (Summer 1992) byAnniePritchard Hypatia



claims of duty. I arguethat there is more going on here than a simple moral dilemmain which dutiescan be weighedagainstone anotherby some formof froma condition that KathrynMorganhas moralcalculation.Antigone suffers termed "moral madness,"and this is the central pivot around which the ambivalencesof the play revolve. I show how Antigonecan be read through KathrynMorgan'saccount of moral madness and argue that Antigoneis a play that centers on multiple fracturesof identity, which are interpreted as evidence of madness, and of the past. These are central not only to the plot and as multiple mirrorings a stylistic device in the text but also in reading the characterof Antigone I arguethat such conflicts and mirrorings are a central herself.Furthermore, in lives of and are vivid the of women in particularly aspect subjectivity societies. like has a women, Antigone, fragmentedsense of patriarchal many in the shardsof a broken self, riddledwith conflict. She "findsherselfdispersed mirror" (Irigaray1986, 238).

of Mind (Hegel 1949, Hegel'sdiscussionof Antigonein his Phenomenology 464-499) is a polemic directedagainst"modernmorality" by which he means the Kantian view of the individualas the conscious determinatorof ethical maxims,motivatedby the good will. "Whatis of value in Hegel'sunderstandthe atomistic ing of the familyis that it restson a socialtheorywhich supersedes modelsof liberalism" (Easton 1984, 4). Hegel completely dismissesthe view of Antigone as the individual, the "virtue loner,takingon the communitywith hergoalfixedon a higherpurpose: is a civic act, not personaledificationpitted againstthe courseof the world" (Shklar 1971, 86). For Hegel, Antigone is simply carryingout her social obligation; she is, "neither a criminal nor a martyrto conscience" (Shklar 1971, 86). Hegel sees the role playedby the familyin ancient Greece as central to the play.Aristotle sawthe familyas the necessaryeconomic baseforthe polis. "For Hegel, the distinguishingfeatureof the familyis that it lies outside the realm of possessive individualismand thus provides a counter to the fragmenting forces of civil society as it forces individualsto move beyond subjectivity" (Easton 1984, 4). Hegel saw the family is an ethicalrather than simply a of the familyethos, which provides productiveunit. Womenarethe guardians the base fromwhich men can rise towardthe universal:citizenship. For Hegel, ethics is not something that one adopts after reflection and deliberation. it. Morality Antigone has no moralwill asKantwouldunderstand is simplycustom and is divided into two complementary the spheres: customs of the polls (human law) and the customsof the family (divine law). And for Hegel, neither familynor civil society is found outsidethe state.

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Women'srole in the maintenanceof society stems from their being rooted and nature,so they subordinate in particularity themselvesto the needs of the and the state. Men have individual needs that aremet within particular family the family,so they are then free to enter civil society.Women'saccess to the universal is derivative, i.e., via their menfolk. "[They]do not accede to the his particularneeds are looked public sphere to which he has access because afterin the family"(Whitford1991, [author:1991aor 1991b???] 120). Women are thus excluded fromthe polis and reducedto immanence/nature. By refusingPolynices burial,Creon is condemninghis body to degenerate into the "natural". But by takingon the burialand so turningthe naturalfact of deathinto a spiritual one, Antigone "placesthe kinsmanbackinto the womb of the earth and thus reunites him with undying elemental individuality" 1985, 215). Farfromensuringher ownindividuality (Irigaray by defyingCreon, Antigone is ensuringher brotherhas what she will lack-doubly so, as there will be no one left to mournher.

George Steiner, perhapsthe most widely read modern critic of Antigone, reads the play as being centered on five binary oppositions: man/woman, gods/humanity, society/the individual,youth/age,the living/the dead. I want to challenge readingsof Antigonebased on conficts between various binary oppositions.In doing so, I will suggestproblemswith readingAntigone as the champion of "private"morality against Creon's oppressivestatism.(Elshain 1983). While I recognizethat conflict plays a crucialrole in the play, I think that the conflicts are farmore involved than such oppositionswould suggest, and more importantly, such readingsignore the central role played by continuity, especiallyas exemplifiedby the importanceof the familyand tradition, in the play. JeanBethkeElshtainsets out to place feministpolitical theoryin a tradition of women'spolitical action fromAntigone onward.She arguesthat feminists should be awareof the importanceof maintainingthe division between the personal and the public spheres. She claims that women have mounted importantresistanceto oppressiveaspectsof statismand should not be lured into focusing their own goals on this legalistic paradigm.Her purpose"is to reclaimfor women a social identity that locates them very much in and of the wider world but that positions them against overweening state power and overarchingpublic identity underits terms.[Her]aim is to define and defend a femaleidentity and a feministperspectivethat enablescontemporary women to see themselves as the daughtersof Antigone" (Elshtain 1983, 300). I disagreewith her reading of Antigone's motivation, which "pits a woman against the arrogant instances of statecraft"(Elshtain 1983, 304-5). She depicts Antigone as the champion of traditionand of familyhonor, strongin



her defiance of Creon and in contrast to her more traditionally"feminine" sisterIsmene.This is a powerfuland attractiveview of a politically motivated heroine but it is not Sophocles'sAntigone. The characteris not this straightmoralimpulses.It is preciselyat the she is tormentedby contradictory forward, be a fails to which at steadfast,duty-boundfeminist strong, Antigone points heroine that her true interestrests.Elshtainalso assumesthat the concepts of the "public"and the "private"realms can be unproblematicallyassumed, whereasthese concepts are historicallyspecific and cannot be assumedto be constantsacrosscenturies. Manycriticshave followedsimilarimpulsesand elided the deeplyproblematic and disturbingambivalencesof the heroine'smotivation. George Eliot wrote that the "turing point of the tragedyis not ... reverenceto the dead betweenthese and the importanceof the sacredrightsof burial,but the conflict and obedience to the State. Here lies the dramaticcollision: the impulseof sisterlypiety which allies itself with reverencefor the gods, clashes with the dutiesof citizenship;two principles,both having their validity,areat warwith each" (Eliot 1963, 263). Both Antigone and Creon are conscious that "in followingout one principle,they arelayingthemselvesopen to just blamefor which secretlyheightens the another;and it is this consciousness transgressing of Antigone" (Eliot 1963, hardness defiant and the of Creon exasperation 264). Eliot concludeswith the Chorus"thatourprotestfor the rightshouldbe seasonedwith moderationand reverence"(Eliot 1963, 265). echoes Eliot'sconclusionandclaimsthat the playcenters MarthaNussbaum on the dangerouslyrigid and inflexible worldviewsof both Antigone and Creon. Antigone is single-mindedlyacting out of loyalty to her family,and Creon is attempting to replace blood ties with civic duty (Nussbaum1986, 000-000). Nussbaumarguesthat the moralof the play is that we must remain andhence allowthe possibilityof resolutionratherthan catastrophic adaptable oppositionsof conflicting duties and obligations. In a similarvein, Steven Wagnersees the play as centering on the clash between Creon and Antigone. He does not, however, accuse Antigone of inflexibility.He claimsthat there is no realmoralconflict:Antigone is morally correct,and Creon is simplya tyrantand a misogynistwho is putting Thebes in dangerof retributionfromthe gods.Wagnerclaims that Antigone'ssinglemindednessof purposeis not the moraltunnel vision that Nussbaumaccuses her of but ratherthe omission of extraneousfactors(love for Haemon or her sister,recognizingthe threat Polynices posed to Thebes, etc.) in responseto the demandsof the situation. Wagnerterms this "rationalfanaticism."The moment in the play where Antigone seems to falterreflectsnot a flaw in her characterbut rather the voicing of ambivalences that she had previously repressedto performthe burial of her brother.The fanatic'sstrategyis the rationalsolution to the problemof how to pursuethe right coursein the face of almost certain doom. Wagner's sympathetic attempt to claim that

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Antigone's actions are wholly consistent is, however,ultimately implausible. Antigone is not consistent, though she battles to the point of madness to attempt to find consistency.Her inconsistencyis not, however,some kind of aspectof women'slives. "tragicflaw"but ratheran all-too-familiar

In her excellent paper "Women and Moral Madness,"Kathryn Morgan discussesthe painful moral ambiguitiesthat face the female ethical agent in contemporarysociety.(Morgan1987). I would arguethat her claims can be social systemand they applydirectlyto the situation appliedto any patriarchal of Antigone. Morganclaims that the whole idea of women'smoral agency is called into questionby the fact that women arenot men. Women arealso put in variousethical doublebinds,by which if they do what is virtuousthey are not behaving like women, and if they behave as women should "bynature" in Antigone. they are incapableof virtue.We can see this situationgraphically Ismenebehaves like a "true" woman and is fearfulof defyingCreon'sedict to leave Polynices unburied.The play begins with this opposition between the "feminine"Ismene: Remember we arewomen,we'renot bornto contend with men. Then too we are underlings,ruledby much strongerhands, so we must submitin this and in things still worse (74-77) and her "wild,irrational" sisterwho is "in love with impossibility" and on "a (116, 104, 107). hopeless quest" Creon'sedict seemsparticularly harshnot only becauseit flies in the face of tradition but also because it is a memberof his own family,his sister'sson, whose corpse he is allowing to be "left unburied,/ his corpse carrionfor the birds and dogs to tear, / an obscenity for the citizens to behold" (229-231). There reallydoes seem to be some deep-seatedhumanrevulsionat the idea of the desecrationof the dead.Exposingthe bodies of the enemies of the state is often used as a public warningor as a collective punishment.2Creon'streatment of Polynices' corpse fits Foucault'snotion of a monarchial system of punishment.Creon sees Polynices'scrimeas a crimeagainstthe personof the king, and the body of the condemned becomes the text of punishment:"A bodyeffaced,reducedto dustand thrownto the winds, a bodydestroyedpiece by piece by the infinite powerof the sovereign"(Foucault1979, 50). Antigone is motivatedto defyCreon'sedict by her pridein her lineage, her dutyto the gods,and her uniquelove forher brother.I agreewith Wagnerthat there is no doubt that Antigone is doing the right thing, but doing the right thing is not necessarilyenough when women are the ethical agents. KathrynMorgansaysthat women are assumedto be experts in the private sphere, in the realm of the interpersonal,but as a result of these apparent



suspectedof not beingcapableof principled, strengthswomen areimmediately In the moral action. playhowever,we arenot shownAntigone'scare impartial, at least not for the living. She never mentions her husband-toand sympathy, be Haemon;she is cruel to the point of sadismto Ismene,who shows genuine doomedsister.Antigone claims,"Iwasborn distressand love for her stubborn, to join in love, not hate-/that is my nature"(590-91) but we see precious little of this in her speeches.Those who claim that Antigone exemplifieslove and care as opposedto Creon'spublic moralityare on shakyground.Ismene and Haemon would perhaps be more plausible candidates for this binary opposition.

Critics like BernardKnox who claim that Antigone has the unambiguous markof classicalheroismin her surenessof self and individualismarereading her ambivalences.These ambivonly partof her characterand aresubsuming her character, and each highlightsthe alences arevital keys to understanding tension in her social and moral position. The very fact that she does feel ambivalentis given as being evidence of her madness,and the stronglinks she feels with her dead parentsand brotherchallenge the atomistic view of the individual. The challenge to the view of Antigone as an individualistrationalethical agent and feminist heroine comes just before her entombment. Antigone appearsto renounce duty as the motivation for her action, claiming that she wouldonly have done this for her irreplaceable sibling: if I had been a mother of children or if my husbanddied, exposedand rotting I'dnever have taken this ordealupon myself, never defied our people'swill . . A husbanddead, there might have been another. A child by anothertoo, if I had lost the first. But motherand fatherboth lost in the halls of Death, no brothercould ever springto life again. (996-1005) This argument strikesmodernearsasdeeplystrange,but it echoes the Arabic proverb"A husbandcan be found, a son can be bor, but a brothercannot be replaced" (Briffaultcited in Walker 1983). It is important to realize that relationshipstake on differingstatusesat differenthistorical moments. The relation that we might take as primary,romantic love, would have little arearranged significancein a society in which marriages accordingto political expediency. This speech of Antigone's is also importantto Hegel'sreadingof the play; he claims that, "[i]na householdof the ethical kind, a woman'srelationships

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are not based on a referenceto this particular husband,this particularchild, but to a husband,to childrenin general-notto feeling but to the universal... The brother, however, is in the eyes of the sister a being who's nature is unperturbed by desireand is ethically like her own; her recognition in him is pure and unmixed with any sexual relation" (Hegel 1949, 476-77). Hegel interpretsthis relationshipas being unique in that it is non-dialectical (not based on the master/slavedichotomy). He thinks that this is a relation of genuine reciprocity,not mediatedby desire or power,beyond the war of the sexes. But as Irigaray astutelyrecognizes,"this moment is mythical of course, and the Hegelian dream... is alreadythe effect of dialectic producedby the discourseof patriarchy" 1985, 257). Antigone and Polynices do not (Irigaray have a relationshipof reciprocity; it wouldbe impossible foranywomanof that time to be seen as an equal,even by a belovedbrother. Rather,Antigone serves as what Irigaray has called a "living mirror," (Irigaray1985, 221) mediating her brother's death, but leaving no one to mournher in turn. Several Frenchfeministshave made the point that the silent voice in the storyof Oedipus'sfamilyis that of Jocasta(Olivier 1989, Irigaray 1985, Feral 1978). As Irigaray points out, "thefamilyof Oedipuswouldbe quiteexemplary becausethe mother of the husbandis also his wife, thus re-marking the blood tie of the childrenof that union-including PolynicesandAntigone" (Irigaray 1985, 216). Antigone'slove forPolynicesmightthen be forhim asher mother's son. This matrilineal slant is endorsed by the Greek word for brother"one from the same womb."Antigone "will choose to die a virgin, adelphos, unweddedto any man, ratherthan abandonher mother'sson to the dogs and vultures"(Irigaray 1984, 218) goes on to arguethat feministsshouldtake up a maternalgenealogy Irigaray to unearthour buriedmothersand voice their silences so that the historiesof women'smoral actions are no longer lost. I believe that feminist theory has, to some extent, adoptedsome of the premisesof genealogical method indeand Foucault.Feministtheory pendently of Frenchphilosopherslike Irigaray has also tended to emphasizethe importanceof remaining closely tied to feministpoliticalpracticeaswell as emphasizing the importanceof uncovering the "lost"voices of historicallymarginalized women. "What emerges . . . is somethingone might call a genealogy,or rathera multiplicityof genealogical researches, a painstaking rediscoveryof struggles together with the rude memoryof their conflicts .. Let us give the term genealogyto the union of eruditeknowledgeand local memorieswhich allowsus to establisha historical knowledge of strugglesand to make use of this knowledge tactically today" (Foucault1980). It is importantthat we recognizehow threateningsuch identificationwith our foremothersmight appearto patriarchal society. "Hegelexplains that the who remainsfaithful to her mother must be excluded from the city, daughter fromsociety. She cannot be put to death by violence but she must be put in



children ... We may as prison,deprivedof liberty,air, light, love, marriage, well say that she is condemned to a slow and solitarydeath" (Irigaray1991, 199). for irrationaland conflicting behaviorfrom The readerhas been prepared Antigone fromthe verybeginningof the play.Ismene,on hearingof the burial plan, says, "whyrush to extremes?It'smadness,madness,"(80) and she calls hersister,"wild(and) irrational" both (115). Creonsaysof the sisters,"They're mad,/I tell you, the two of them / One'sjust shown it / the other'sbeen that waysince she wasborn"(632-35). These claimsof madnessecho to the reader when we face the apparentcontradictionof Antigone's last speech in which she tells us she would only have defiedCreon for Polynices'sake.4 Ismenealludesto the suffering Antigone has gone throughin her life-wanher with her doomed mother'ssuicide,her brotherskilling one father, dering another-and points out to Creon "the sense we were born with cannot last forever... / commit crueltyon a personlong enough/ and the mind beginsto go" (635-37). Sufferingand contradictionare crucial aspects of Antigone's character. Matt Klinsky is correct to point out that expecting "normal" behaviorfromAntigone such as displaysof romanticattachmentto Haemon or obedience to Creon'sedict, ignoresthe fact that the amountof tragedythat she and her familyhave sufferedis far from"normal." But she is still loyal to andproudof her doomedfamily;herparent's incestuousmarriage, her brother's familialloyaltyin treachery againstThebes. When she displaysthis "private," public and rejectsthe authorityof the state, she is labeledmad. Nussbaumis correct in claiming that Creon is trying to replace the blood ties of family with the ties of civil obligation as the moral basis of the state. This is underscored by the fact that he rejectshis obligationsas maternaluncle to Antigone, Ismene, and Polynices. In societies that practice matrilineal childrenwouldbe consideredCreon'sheirs;Haemon would descent,Jocasta's line.5 be heir to his mother,Eurydice's these familial obligationsof blood andreligion,Creonhas made Byrejecting the move towardmodernnotions of state and civil society. Antigone points out to those who value the laws of civil society more than family or religion that "yourwisdom appealedto one world-mine, another"(628). I am not formoralcalculationbut claimingthat Antigone is usinga different foundation rather that she refusesto conform to Creon'sartificialdistinctions between differentaspectsof life, labelingsome,such asfamilyandspirituality, as inferior to the public life of the state. Creon'sradicalseparationbetween the public and private leads to the situation that Kathryn Morgan describes as "the perceived invisibility of actual moraldomainsin women'slives so that often women don't even recognize when we are being moral" (Morgan 1987). Antigone does recognizethat she is being moral,but her assessmentis undermined by Creon, Ismene,and the Chorus.

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If we were to take up the liberal argumentand demand equal rights for Antigone based on her being an individual, rational agent, we would not her predicament.Ethicalsystemsbasedon a respectfor an necessarilyaddress individual'srights alone are compatible with seriousmoral impoverishment and human suffering. As Carol Gilligan points out, "people have a real emotional need to be attached to something and equalitydoes not give you attachment.Equalityfractures society and places on every personthe burden of standingon his [sic]own two feet" (Gilligan 1982). Antigone valuesthe connection of her familyties, and she does not feel the samekind of ties to the communityof the city. The lives of women in classical that antiquitywere definedin termsof the household,so it is hardlysurprising She is more with blood than with the state. identifies pained by the Antigone fact that there will be none left to mournher;she feels isolatedand abandoned is sentenced to death by her maternaluncle, and by her only remainingsister,6 is accused of hubrisand madnessby the chorusof elders. Antigone believes that she does not "fit"anywhere:"I go to my rockboundprison, strangenew tomb/alwaysa stranger, O deargod,/ I have no home on earthandnone below,/ not with the living, not with the breathlessdead" (939-42). This lack of connection, of community,reflectsher fragmentation,the contradictionsin her characterand motivations. Our sense of identity derives largelyfrom our "place"in our immediate communities,as daughters,as philosophers,as activists, as teachers,or whatever. The depressionthat overtakesus aftersome difficult life event, such as grief at the loss of a parent, despondency after prolonged unemployment, loneliness and self-reproach afterthe end of a long-termrelationship,comes at least in partfromthe consequentshift in oursocial "place," our locatedness in the web of social relationships,in our sense of identity. Antigone suffers one moment preciselythis kind of dislocatednessand concurrentambiguities: she saysshe is acting out of duty to the gods, the next she appearsto be taking and heartless, delight in her defianceof Creon;at timesshe does seem arrogant and then she falls into hopeless grief over her lost brother.Our sense of self relies on our connection with others;without this we cannot even maintain the illusion of being wholly consistent individualethical agents. Creon says "Her?Don't even mention her-she no longer exists" (640) and to some extent he is correct:Antigone has separatedherself from others, only feels connection with the dead, and so is in some sense what she claims, in a state of living death.

It does not requirea feministreadingof this text to realizethe centralityof Antigone'sgenderto the play. On hearing that his orderhas been disobeyed and the corpse buried, Creon immediately assumes that a man would be



guilty-"What man alive woulddare"(281) and is obviouslyfurtherenraged on hearing that it was a woman who disobeyedhim. Creon is an archetypal image of patriarchalauthority:he demandsabsolute obedience, particularly fromthose he perceives as weakerthan himself, such as women and his son. In fact, it could be claimed that Creon'sself-imagederives from comparing himself to others and finding them wanting. "While I'm alive no woman is going to lord it over me" (592). beforeAntigone'scapture,the Chorusspeaksthe famous"ode Immediately of rape,that pervadethis to man."The imagesof domination,andparticularly mustbe overcomefor the greater ode underscorethe fact that the "feminine" "The oldest of the gods [man]wearsaway-/ the advancementof patriarchy. earth, the immortal,the inexhaustible-/ as his ploughs go back and forth, (382-85). yearin, yearout/ with the breedof stallionsturningup the furrows" The ode is concerned with the taming of wildnessto aid man. Creon underscores this link between nature and women, particularly Antigone, when he comments that when she is dead, "there are other fields for [Haemon] to plough"(643). It is interestingto note that the "ode to man"centers on the aspectsof humanbeings,enablingthem to take the "brute" essentiallycreative matterof natureand mold it. But while naturecan be modified,the natureof women apparently cannot. Patriarchal ideologies that insist on a strict basisfor the oppressionof women deny them moralagencyby virtue "natural" of their not being men. During this periodwomen were presentedas potential threats to the masculine social order, always on the verge of excess. Think of the popular depictions of the female followersof Bacchuswho at once were at one with nature, suckling small animals at their breasts, but could change without warning into possessedcreatures.ElizabethBerg claims that the bacchante motherswho kill their children, chaste oscillate between opposites/doubles: women who partakein orgies. "The contradictionsthat they incarnate are scandalous,but these are the contradictionsof an affirmativewoman"(Berg 1982). I disagreewith Hegel'sclaim that the siblingrelationbetweenAntigone and Polynices is outside desire. The erotic manner in which Antigone speaksof but it is reminiscentof the eroticrelation Polynicesis undoubtedlyscandalous, between siblingscommon in mythology:Isisand Osiris,Artemis and Apollo, Diana and Dionysus,even ZeusandHera.We cannot help but see the mirrored reflectionofJocastaand Oedipus's incestuouslove in Antigone'sassertionthat "even if I die in the act, that death will be a glory./I will lie with the one I love and loved by him-/an outrage sacred to the gods" (86-89). But surely incestuousdesiremust be evidence of madness?7 Antigone's gender is also importantbecause of the control women were credited with over birth and death-the passing into and out of darkness (Pradel 1983). "As among the gods, so among the mortalswas death every-

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where woman'sbusiness.A woman is said to have invented wailing for the dead ... Women cradlethe infant and the corpse,each to his particular new life" (Lederercited in Walker 1983, 215). Irigaray points out that woman is the guardian of the blood tie, the sangrouge,and the guardian of burialrights, leaving no one to ensureher own rights.Again the view of Antigone as the she is, at leastin part,carrying individualstandingagainstthe stateis simplistic; In role. as her out fact, Mary Lefkowitzhas pointed out, socially assigned female for dramatic action to take place-only a sister the Antigone mustbe or daughterwould feel the compellingobligationto buryher dead (Lefkowitz 1983). As we see in the "ode to man," Antigone and women in general are identifiedwith the earth, with fecundity,and with procreationchanneled by masculine control. Antigone is strongly identified with the Greek myth of she is identifiedwith all three aspects Demeterand Persephone.Interestingly, of the goddess;she is at once the youngvirginKore,Persephonein her aspect who "goesto wed the Lordof the darkwaters" of the queen of the underworld, but she is also the (908) grievingmotherthroughthe identificationof her with the earth, Demeter. I have discussedAntigone in her Persephoneaspectof obligationsconcerning death, but the Kore or virgin element of her characteris also significant. In ancient Greece young virgins were seen as being in particulardangerof madness.It wasclaimedthat their menstrual blood wasimpededby the hymen and the blood traveledup throughthe bodyto the brain,causingmadness.The waspregnancy(King 1983). These "madvirgins"frequently cure,predictably, took their own lives by hanging themselves.Eva Cantrella claims that such suicidesreachedalmostepidemicproportions in this period (Cantrella 1985). is with identified Demeter Antigone throughthe connection of women and the earth,but also her grieffor Polynicesis identifiedin termsof maternalloss: "she cried out a sharp,piercingcry,/like a birdcome back to an empty nest,/ peering into its bed, and all the babies gone .. . / Just so when she sees the corpsebear/she burstsinto a long, shatteringwail/ and calls down withering curseson the heads/ of all who did the work"(471-77). This allusion to the Demeter-Persephonemyth situates Antigone in the tradition of women's victimization by, and resistance to, patriarchal violence. In the myth, Demeter'sgrieffor the loss of her daughterleadsthe earth to stop reproducing and "die." The mother'srevenge is formidableand forces Hades to return Persephone to her mother for the six months of spring and summerwhen Demeterreturnsthe earth to fertility.

The claim that the play surrounds the oppositions of the public and the private buys into the idea that Creon doeshave the public good at heart. It



seems equally plausible, given Creon'sdespotic and xenophobic machismo, that he is hiding his personalambitionsbehind his claim to be speakingfor that Creon has only been king for a very the state. It is importantto remember brieftime and needs to establishhis leadership.It seemsentirelypossiblethat in orderto galvanize Creon is usingboth PolynicesandAntigone as scapegoats his behind Kathleen Jones points out that, authority.8 public opinion actionsspeakcompellinglyto the communitybecausethey remain "Antigone's connected to the fabricof its life. Her being silenced by the authorityof the stateremindsus whatconnections arelost in Creon's(male) view of authority" (Jones 1988, 128) Haemon suggeststhat his fatherdoes not have the supportof the people by claimingthat the rumorsin Thebes say:"'No woman ... ever deserveddeath less, / and such a brutal death for such a glorious action / . . . Death? She in secret, deservesa glowingcrownof gold!'/So they sayand the rumorspreads darkly.. ." (775-84). And Creon does seem to believe Haemon'stale to some extent, as he changesAntigone'spunishmentfroma public stoning, a punishment that wouldrequirethe directcollaborationof the population,to a hidden death, entombed,silenced in a cave awayfromthe city. Antigone is silenced and placed outside the city so no one can witness her challenge to the orderof civil society. patriarchal Creon's choice of punishment for his enemies is precisely what Michel Foucaultdescribedas the use of the body as culturaltext and site of practical social control. Creon uses Polynices'scorpse and Antigone's punishment as texts upon which to inscribeand establishhis political authority. The desecrastatusas an individualbearer tion of the corpseis symbolicdenialof Polynices's of rights,let alone a memberof the communityor the royalfamilyof Thebes. Antigone's is a death in life (as she has lost her family) and a living death (beingentombedalive). This is a symbolicact as well as a political expediency, a punishmentto fit the crime,as in feudalsystemswhere a thief loses his hand or a rapistis castrated(Foucault1977, 49-50). Creon buriesAntigone for the crime of buryingher brother.

Demeter'sgrief,like Antigone's,leadsher to behave irrationally; she is mad fromgrief. But of course,labelingsuch behaviormadnessor immoralpresupposes that ethical action is rational and individual. Many feminists have claimedthat the strongphilosophicaltraditionclaimingthat to be moralone must be rational and impartial, and able to apply one's decision-making procedureuniversally,ignorespreciselythe kinds of social ties within which women have traditionally definedtheir sense of self. So if one is tryingto be a "good"motheror a "dutiful" daughter-i.e. being consciouslypartialtowards and caring for one's own-one can never be truly moral. Kathleen Jones's

Annie Pritchard


contention that the " inability to reconcile authoritywith human agency is the result,in part,of a conceptionof the self in isolationfromothersas opposed to a self in connection with others"(Jones 1988, 128) helps to illuminatepart of what is at stake in the conflict between Antigone and Creon. Kathryn Morgan and others have pointed out that women are simulta"womenareput into neouslypraisedand blamedfor being strongindividuals: the impossibleposition of simultaneously moral and immoral,virtuous being and vicious for the same behavior"(Morgan 1987, 154). In Antigonethis is apparentin the ambivalencesof the Chorus towardher actions particularly and avowedmotivation. Her attemptsat self-empowerment her by comparing fromGreekmyth areunderminedby the Chorus's action to those of characters interpretationof this as an example of hubris.This is precisely the kind of doublebindwithin which we attempt to formulateour ethical actions and, morebroadly,our subjectivity. Womenare told that powerand effective self-determination, though essential for men, arebad in a womanand that self- sacrificeis good. Women,then, areforbiddento be "full"individualsbut are then condemnedas incapableof ethical action. KathrynMorganis correctin pointing out that what is considered a "virtue"in a man undergoesmetamorphosis and becomes a vice in a woman (Morgan 1987, 154).9And the characteristically "feminine"virtues are at the same time the vices of passivity,emotionalityand masochism.The butAntigone is beyond hystericalwomanis beyondthe pale of moraldiscourse, the pale for her apparentcoldness. The feminine vice of masochismis dramaticallyillustratedin Antigone's suicide. If our model of ethical agency is the rational individual,then surely we must see this as an act of madness.Kant tells us that we cannot rationally will our own death (Kant 1964, 89). Camus would disagree,claiming that Antigone's death was not only a rational act but an authentic one (Camus, 1967). So perhapsin her last act Antigone was tryingto cheat Creon out of herdeathbykillingherself,affirming her individuality, being a rationalfanatic? I wouldsuggestinsteadthat this is the kindof psychologically extremeposition in which an individualmight find herselfin a highly gender-stratified society. And I think that a feminist genealogymight uncover many such Antigones, sufferingmoralmadnessacrossvery differenthistoricalepochs. Moralmadnessis not the resultof some unlikelyseriesof events, lost in the mists of time, but is a situation that women find themselves facing daily.Let me pick only the most visible of examples.As I write this, the defense lawyer in the Mike Tyson rape case has claimed that the alleged rape victim is Accusations of mental instabilityhave also recently "mentallyunbalanced." been thrown at the alleged victim in the William Kennedy Smith rape case and at Anita Hill. I, like manyothers,foundAnita Hill'stestimonythe picture of unemotional, rational moderation, and yet congressmen and the press claimed that as the polygraphprovedshe wasn't lying, she mustbe mentally



unbalanced-why else would she make such a testimony against Clarence Thomas?Why is it so much easierto imaginethat a successful,much-admired is crazy than it is to imagine that a successful,muchprofessional-woman admiredprofessional-manonce indulged for a period of time in shameful behavior?0All three women were also subjectedto having their privatelives dissected, while the private lives of the men in question were held to be evidence. When these three women tried to make a moralstand, inadmissible or looked to the American legal systemfor "justice,"they were dismissedas being mentallyunbalanced,gold diggers,or whores. The situationsof an Antigone or a Demeter illustratehow individualistic accounts of ethics, particularly ethics, are inadequate duty- and rights-based for feminist ethics. As feministsworkingon ethics, we need to take seriously in which womenand othersfind themselves the kindsof extremepredicaments in societies with radicalasymmetries of power.Ratherthan creatingsanitized feminist heroines, we need to considerthe real-lifeconflicts of women who find themselves put in, or who put themselvesin, extreme predicaments.We need to addressthe position of women who feel driven to kill-for example: Sarah Thompson, Tess of the d'Urbevilles, Clytemnestra, Medea-or the women who turn the violence against themselves: Sylvia Plath, Virginia EleanorMarx,or Simone Weil. We do not need Woolf, MaryWollstonecraft, of feminist "saints" but a complex and multiplecollection a new hagiography of genealogicalresearchesinto the realityof women'slives. We also need to investigatehow ourconnections with othersandourplace in both the political communityand the privatesphereform the bases of our moralpracticesand our definitionsof self. Antigone's suicide within the womblikeprisonof the cave exactly mirrors her mother's fate. She kills herselfby hangingherselfwith her veils, the symbol of her sociallyascribed in the playmight position as a woman.Othermirrorings lead us to think that as long as we maintainoppressivegenderdelineationswe aredoomed to repeatthe fates of our ancestors.Antigone'slove for Polynices mirrorsJocasta and Oedipus; Haemon's attempt to kill his father mirrors Oedipus'smurderof Laius;Antigone's suicide and the resultant suicides of HaemonandEurydice perpetuatethe cycle of death. It is only by disentangling the intersectionsof differingelements of our social reality,ratherthan simply assigning them to one or the other side of a binary opposition, and by deconstructinggender oppositions that we might start to escape women's endlessreflectionsin the mirrorof moralmadness.

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NOTES enthusiasm forthis projectand I wouldlike to thankSteven Wagnerforhis boundless Thanksalso to PamelaGrathand the for his criticismsof an earlierdraftof this paper. referees for theirhelpfulcomments. threeHypatia 1. All quotationsfrom this play are taken from RobertFagels,trans.,The Three followquotationsin the text. Theban Plays(Sophocles 1984). Line numbers 2. I am thinking of the Vichy government'sexposing of the corpsesof French refusal to returnthe bodiesof Palesinians Resistancefighters,or the Israeli government's who die in detention to theirfamiliesfor burial. is a very ambiguous 3. PamelaGrathhas pointed out to me that "moralmadness" madnessas evidence of termthat could mean madnessin theface of patriarchal morality, etc. This is a validcriticism.I hope that this paperat leastbeginsto morality, patriarchal Morgan's concept,but I realisethat thereis muchmoreworkto be done. exploreKathryn 4. It is interesting that, even though the Chorus readily accuses Antigone of madness,it neverquestionsCreon'ssanity.Given the beliefsystemsof the time, surelyit of divine law was,at least, irrational. couldbe arguedthat Creon'sdismissal 5. Nussbaumpoints out that Haemon means "blood"in Greek, which seems to underlinethe idea of descent (Nussbaum 1986, 62). 6. Antigone is undoubtedly too hardon her sisterhere. RosalynDiprosepointsout that"above all it is in Antigone,rather than in herbrother, thatIsmenerecognises herself, so that her sister's action/crimebecomesher own" (Diprose1991, 168). That Antigone evidenceof her moralturmoil. rejectsthis identificationis further but interestingly, 7. Antigone'slove forPolynicesis certainlyseen as inappropriate, at this period in history,Haemon'sromanticlove for her, dramatically revealedin his attackon his fatherand his eventualsuicide,wouldalso be seen as inappropriate. See Foucault1986, on the "proper" relationsbetweenman and wife. 8. See Rene Girard(1977) on the roleof the scapegoatin civil society. 9. In his bookson classicalethics,TheUseofPleasure andTheCareof theSelf,Michel Foucault pointsout that at somepoints in classicalantiquitytherewerein fact acknowledgedseparateethical maximsfor men and for women. 10. Thanksto PamelaGrathfor this point.

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