Χριστίνα Ντόκου, Επίκουρη Καθηγήτρια, τμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών
Ασημίνα Καραβαντά, Αναπληρώτρια Καθηγήτρια, τμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών
Κωνσταντίνος Μπλατάνης, Επίκουρος Καθηγητής, τμήμα Αγγλικής Γλώσσας και Φιλολογίας, Εθνικό και Καποδιστριακό Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών
In “Antigone, Deportee,” Jutta Gsoels-Lorensen argues that the cave to which Antigone is sentenced is not merely a site of punishment, but also a “legal and political figuration underpinning sovereignty’s putatively ‘blameless’ rupturing of a person’s juridico-political existence” (114). However, Antigone is not the only Sophoclean character consigned to a cave; indeed, the cave, as a common representation of the world in both ritual and philosophy, and the desert island of Lemnos in general, have a similar function in Philoctetes. Within the state of emergency of the Trojan War, Philoctetes passes from being a citizen to being apolis for no apparent reason; thus, the cave construct functions as a biopolitical space where, as the medical imagery employed indicates, political bios is intended to shrink into bare life. However, like all symbols, the cave has two sides, and while it represents a cavernous regression, it also indicates, like Plato’s later parable of the cave, the tunnel-like course the soul must follow to arrive to the “truth” (Chevalier and Gheerbrant 180-184). Focusing on Oscar Mandel’s play The Summoning of Philoctetes (1961), as well as on George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) as an atypical rewriting of Philoctetes, this thesis aims to examine this double function of the cave construct as both a synecdoche for the carceral and a – provisionally – mystical space which leads to a deeper understanding. Indeed, Philoctetes’ wound becomes in The Summoning of Philoctetes an occasion for creativity and self-reliance, while in Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston Smith’s inflamed varicose ulcer, revelatory of his fundamental disatisfaction with the bare life imposed by the Party, leads to a questioning of the political system of Oceania. Thus, the device of the cave is inherently linked to the question of what it means to be human, and to the price that social inclusion entails, as shown by Philoctetes’ eventual capitulation in both texts, which constitutes a betrayal of himself. The oracle’s insistence that Philoctetes should come to Troy of his own free will, overcoming his aversion for the Troyan War and for those who wage it, reveals that the hero’s possession which Odysseus – or the Party – seek has to do not so much with the mythical bow as with the hero’s mind and soul, something which is highlighted both in The Summoning of Philoctetes and in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The mythical hero’s cave, being open on two sides, cannot long function as a shelter, but leaves his inner self exposed to the violence of sovereign power, and provides a schema via which one can see, and critique, similar “cavernous” conditions/spaces in society.
Philoctetes, The Summoning of Philoctetes, Nineteen Eighty-Four, state of exception, the carceral, cave