Wesleyan University

Debra Bergoffen 11/17/2014


The story of Oedipus' sons' battle for control of Thebes, the ensuing fratricide, and the refusal of burial rites to the "traitor" Polyneices, captured the imagination of Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles. In this lecture, Bergoffen employs Hannah Arendt's account of the assault on the human condition that constitutes the crisis of our times (the disaster of statelessness, refugee camps, exiles, illegal aliens) to attend to the words of Antigone's exiled brother Polyneices as depicted in Euripides' The Phoenician Women. Reading between Arendt and Euripides, Bergoffen argues that reclaiming one's humanity at the cost of another's, as was the intent of Polyneices' assault on Thebes, does not create a world without exiles, refugee camps, or statelessness but leaves us in a world where the "who" of the living death of the refugee changes but the dehumanization of those forced to flee their homes persists.

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