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PHOENICIAN WOMEN: “Deviant” Thebans Out of Time

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQueer Euripides: Re-Readings in Greek Tragedy
EditorsSarah Olsen, Mario Telò
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
ISBN (Electronic)9781350249639
ISBN (Print)9781350249622
Accepted/In press18 Sep 2021
Published5 May 2022


  • 15 Andujar FINAL

    15_Andujar_FINAL.pdf, 326 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:18 Sep 2021

King's Authors


Oedipus and his family are no strangers to queer theory, thanks to their prominence in psychoanalysis as well as in critical work on the materiality of desire and sex. Even in these figurations, however, Phoenician Women, the most sexualized and arguably “deviant” version of the myth, tends to be neglected. In the play, Euripides not only features Oedipus, Jocasta and their grown children together on stage but he also reframes the myth through Laius’ initial failure to keep his desire in check, ignoring Apollo’s explicit order not to procreate. Drawing from the rich work addressing the “temporal turn” in queer theory, I discuss the ways in which Phoenician Women is fundamentally concerned with the intersections between power and time, particularly as these relate to gender and sexuality. I first examine how Euripides challenges the mythic expectations surrounding this abnormal family in the play’s unusual double prologues featuring Jocasta and Antigone. My discussion reframes the episodic nature of Phoenician Women to reveal an asynchronous reality that resonates with recent conceptualizations of queer time. Secondly, I examine the manner in which Chorus activates the past as an erotic and embodied encounter through their invocation of monstrous figures such as the Sphinx and the serpent of Ares. I explore how the Chorus’ songs highlight the queerness of these figures who cannot be confined to human reproductive processes or biological clocks. Finally, I consider Euripides’ subversion of heteronormative roles through a focus on Antigone, who is transformed from a dutiful maiden at the outset to one who actively refuses marriage with Haemon at the close of the play, as well as on Menoeceus, the only male virgin sacrifice/suicide in extant tragedy. I interrogate to what extent their actions—as well as the play as a whole—might be said to embody notions of anti-social queerness for both the Labdacids and Creon, who is the last of the pure Theban autochthons.

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