Antigone, the Supreme Uncanny

Dr. Victoria I. Burke

Hegel thought Sophocles’ Antigone was the finest tragedy, and he put drama atop his hierarchy of the arts, It is thus located precisely at the point where his system transitions from aesthetics to the philosophy of religion. Hegel concluded his Aesthetics by writing that, “Of all the masterpieces of the classical and modern world, the Antigone seems to me to be the most magnificent and satisfying work of art …” I argue that the Antigone owes its place in Hegel’s hierarchy to its focus on Antigone’s uncanny self-certainty and the modern tension between certainty and truth that occupies Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Antigone’s stance of certainty and the accompanying readiness for death render her the supreme uncanny, an identity with the truth in a world whose universal ethical substance provides (like our own) only fragmented normative clarity.

Antigone and Ismene, Emil Teschendorff, circa 1850