The Problem with Antigone
: Martyrdom, Resistance and Revolution in Slavoj Žižek’s Antigone

  • Owen Cox

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This dissertation offers a reading of Slavoj Žižek’s recent play Antigone, first published in November 2016. Žižek brings many ideas from his philosophical works into Antigone, attempting, in his own words, to make Antigone “part of the problem”. This is at odds with a number of recent readings of Sophocles’ play, including those of Tina Chanter and Judith Butler, that interpret Antigone as a heroic figure, an emblem for emancipatory and progressive struggle. Žižek’s play is strange in that it concludes three times. In the first ending events follow the course of Sophocles’ Antigone. In the second, Creon forgives Antigone and helps her to bury her brother; soon afterwards the Theban people burn the whole city to the ground. In the final ending the Chorus stages a revolutionary uprising, portrayed as an authentic “political Act” in distinction to Antigone’s problematic actions.
In the first part of this dissertation I provide the backdrop for reading Žižek’s Antigone. I begin discussing the readings of Chanter and Butler, pointing out some of the flaws with their views of the central character. I introduce ideas from Jacques Lacan, both his theory and his writings about Antigone, which inform much of Žižek’s thought and his reception of the play. I then discuss Žižek’s own previous readings of Sophocles’ Antigone and how they relate to radical political action, specifically his concept of “the Act”.
In the second part of this dissertation I turn to the text of Žižek’s Antigone. I explore his characterisation of Antigone and how she is portrayed as a problematic heroine with reference to his theoretical works, particularly The Sublime Object of Ideology. I then discuss the play’s endings, how the Chorus becomes for Žižek the authentic revolutionary agent, and how the play itself inspires us to think and to Act.
Date of Award19 Jun 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorGenevieve Liveley (Supervisor)

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