Negotiating Texts and Contexts in Contemporary Irish Studies
Chapter Three The Body Politic: The Ethics of Responsibility and the Responsibility of Ethics in Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes 47
Chapter Three The Body Politic: The Ethics of Responsibility and the Responsibility of Ethics in Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes I would begin this chapter with the body of a woman and stones; I would conclude this chapter with the body of a woman and stones. The two women are different and their stories are different, as are their fates. What connects them is the power of words and ethical decisions, a power which is ethical in its import on language and the law, but which is practical and potent in its import on the bodies of these women, who stand as synecdoches for millions of other bodies upon whom the consequences of the decisions of the body politic are enacted. I will not begin with the caving in of Antigone as one might expect (and the colloquial meaning of the term ‘caving in’ is hauntologically present in the action as it is her very refusal to figuratively ‘cave in’ that results in her literal ‘caving in’ by Creon), given the title of this book, but with another woman who stands accused by men in a story that has come down to us from the time before and beyond. In the title essay of The Government of the Tongue, Heaney is discuss- ing the ‘paradox of poetry and of the imaginative arts in general’ (Heaney 1988, 107), and muses on the efficacy of poetry. He says in one sense, the efficacy is ‘nil – no lyric has ever stopped a...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.