The Posthuman and Irish Antigones: Rights, Revolt, Extinction
Keywords:Antigone, posthumanism, Irish history, Irish drama, human rights, gender, class
Antigone’s afterlives in Ireland have always enacted critical gestures of social protest and mourning that expose the fundamental fragility of human rights caught up in the symbolic conflict between oppressors and oppressed. This paper seeks to explore the scope of rereading certain Irish figurations of Antigone – the exemplary text of European humanism – through a posthumanist lens that unveils new and radical understandings of modern injustices, legal fissures, and capitalist insinuations of an “inhuman politics” against proletarian minorities in twentieth-century Irish society in transnational contexts. The possibilities of a posthumanist theorization of Antigone at the intersection with gender, class, and human rights, reflect the connecting threads, political, aesthetic, and critical, between two texts: an early twentieth-century anonymous poem titled “The Prison Graves” dedicated to Irish human rights activist and revolutionary Roger Casement and an unpublished play-version of Antigone by Aidan C. Mathews in 1984, dedicated to René Girard. Written and produced as a critique of systematic institutional violence and neoliberal capitalist oppression during the epoch of the anti-revolutionary zeitgeist, the myth of Antigone shifts its dialectic from the nationalist nostalgia of “The Prison Graves” to the play-version of the Cold War era to reciprocate a counter-protest against the passing of the Irish Justice Bill. Antigone is reimagined as a hypochondriac resident of the slums of the proletariat and a member of a degenerate acting troupe. Her classical (mythical), aristocratic (white, European, Western) figure has become a posthuman commodity: a proletarian actor now, she performs the same role for millennia in a post-nuclear contaminated prison state in Thebes/Dublin. Peteokles is a bourgeois-turned-rebel mediary; Polyneikes is remembered as a communist terrorist who has been airbrushed from the records of the police state; a bibliophile Ismene religiously reads Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, and the Chorus is the real state oppressor.
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