This article discusses antigone. a requiem (2019) by the Austrian playwright Thomas Köck as one of the latest contributions to a growing body of work that has engaged with Sophocles’ Antigone in light of current migration debates. Avoiding psychological realism in favour of postdramatic techniques, antigone. a requiem differs aesthetically from other recent revisions in that this tragedy-as-requiem does not primarily aim for the audience’s affective response. Inspired by Judith Butler’s theory of the spectral return of socially neglected, ungrievable lives, the play replaces Antigone’s unburied brother with corpses washed ashore on European beaches to question European migration policies through a critical assessment of Europe’s necropolitics. Formally recomposing Sophocles’ tragedy as a requiem with a distinct linguistic musicality, Köck’s play skilfully repurposes the funeral song shared by Sophocles’ Antigone and chorus and relocates Antigone’s anagnorisis to the chorus of contemporary Europeans who eventually recognize themselves in the dead. Köck’s requiem also decomposes its model, as it stages the undead as revenants who return to remind Europe of its history of colonization and exploitation, in which Sophocles’ Antigone was employed as a carrier of European values. In this respect, Köck’s recomposition also sings a requiem for Antigone itself.
Migrant Deaths and European Revenants in Thomas Köck’s antigone. a requiem (2019): Sophocles’ Tragedy Recomposed and Decomposed
Christina Wald is Professor of English Literature and Director of the Centre for Cultural Inquiry at the University of Konstanz, Germany. Her research focuses on contemporary drama, performance, film, and TV series, as well as on early modern drama and prose fiction, with a particular interest in questions of adaptation, intertextuality, and cultural transmission. As a member of the NOMIS research project Traveling Forms, she currently pursues a research project on the cultural travels of Greek and Shakespearean tragedy in the globalized present tense. She is the author of Hysteria, Trauma and Melancholia: Performative Maladies in Contemporary Anglophone Drama (2007); The Reformation of Romance: The Eucharist, Disguise and Foreign Fashion in Early Modern Prose Fiction (2014); and Shakespeare’s Serial Returns in Complex TV (2020).