If politics is not total, then what are its boundaries? How does the human condition shape politics, and how does politics in turn shape the human condition? If political communities bear opinions, customs, and laws from generation to generation, then what is its relationship to the first human community, the community that provides generations, namely, the family?

This seminar considers these questions by way of a careful reading of Sophocles’ Antigone. The characters of this tragedy offer different and conflicting understandings of the familial, the divine, the political, and their proper relationships. Our work will be to consider and question these different understandings, and in doing so, examine the limits of politics.

Image: Giuseppe Diotti, Antigone Condemned to Death by Creon, 1845


Antón Barba-Kay

Antón Barba-Kay is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is finishing a book on the political philosophy of the internet, which he began while a Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session



Discussion Questions & Writing Prompts:

  1. What do we learn of Creon’s understanding of familial love from his conversation with Haemon?
  2. How do Antigone and Creon each view her own and his own agency? What is at stake in the intransigence of each?
  3. What is responsible for the change in Antigone from her penultimate to her final speech?
  4. Are there any examples of unqualifiedly admirable love in the play?
  5. What does Antigone most dread? What does Creon?



Reading Questions & Writing Prompts:

  1. Why does Creon repeatedly blame money as the motivation for supposed violations of his rule?
  2. What does Creon see after Tiresias’ speech? What does he learn from the final moments/deaths of the play?
  3. What can we surmise about the fate of Thebes after the events of the tragedy?

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