Antigone and Cassandra: gender and nationalism in German literature

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Stemming from an understanding of literature as a sub-text of culture, created through the circulation of social energies, this paper will discuss how the reception of the Antigone and Cassandra stories in German literature may help understand the nation-building process, particularly from Bismarck's "Grunderjahre" until 1990. Seen as female modeis in the Western tradition, Antigone and Cassandra derive their particular role in German literature, especially in the 20th Century from the Coming together of three factors: a sense of decay in the present which leads to the search for cultural modeis in the past, more specifically in Greek and Roman Antiquity; the "verspätete Nation" complex leading both to a cosmopolitan outlook on the nationality issue, as well as to an identity-reductive conception further represented by the "völkisch" ideology; and thirdly the ideological and utopian projection of the feminine as the "natural" representative of an alternative and purified existence. Since all identity is constructed across difference, this paper argues that Antigone and Cassandra function as gendered nation-building constructions and will show how in literary terms they were used to support and/or reject nationalist cohesion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-134
Number of pages17
JournalOrbis Litterarum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000


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