A study analyzes the notion of spectacle through the figure of Antigone

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A research study at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) analyzes the notion of spectacle as an enunciative space that is located beyond mediatic logic. In contrast to the generalized concept of spectacle laden with negative connotations, the study proposes a distancing of that concept from that of entertainment. UC3M Full Professor Pilar Carrera, in her essay Antígona o la razón espectacular (2023), published in the review Signa,advocates the notion of spectacle from the perspective of spectacular distance as an inherently political enunciation. The author points to the figure of Antigone as an example of this spectacular logic.

The spectacular distance or the distance in relation to representation has been practically removed with the dominant mediatic models of enunciation and reception that imply forms of pseudo-intimacy with the media. The digital space has radically reduced this spectacular distance through rhetorical strategies that resort to concepts such as horizontality, empowerment, co-creation and democratization. In light of the foregoing, the author notes the importance of in-depth analysis of the implications of a mediatic environment "whose narrative adheres to a supposedly anti-spectacular form".

"A society without spectacle is headed towards totalitarianism. All rhetoric of the "immersive" type is oriented toward propping up that loss of spectacular distance with the narrative. [...] Without this distance, the very notion of the political, knowledge, and freedom is in peril. Neither criticism nor freedom is possible without distance from representation", observed Professor Carrera.

The "ideology of transparency" and the simulation of empowerment in the digital environment have perpetrated this shortening of the space between the stage and the audience, "directly devouring the audience and having them, supposedly, go up on stage." In contrast, the article points to the mystics as the most radical theorists of the spectacle, with a discourse "in which the Self becomes a spectacular device, not a commodity that nurtures a reified and technocratic discourse. The mystic Self reestablishes the subject as a political space and intimacy as a transitional place in which discourse and action once again encounter each other", the author explained.

As an example of the spectacular logic, the author cites Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone, because of the way of inhabiting the language it represents and as reflection upon a broader and more political notion of spectacle.

Myriad analyses of this play have interpreted it as the struggle of an Antigone, representative of the private logic against political power: "clashes of private conscience and public welfare", in the words of George Steiner. That is, the generalized interpretation is that of Antigone as an impassioned private subject, in line with a generalized cliché of femininity, and Creon symbolizing the cold-heartedness of power. However, Carrera’s proposal is in opposition to that interpretation and holds that "Creon did not consider the logic of Antigone to be the private or sentimental at all, as has been systematically interpreted; he considered it framed completely within the dimension of the public". Furthermore, she added: "Antigone is resistance, yes, but not the resistance of the private individual to power. Antigone is the political, an eminently discursive act of resistance, defense, and attack against Creon, in whom the political has become ossified, reduced to the most primary, defensive expression and who can only maintain his position by resorting to physical violence and repression (...) Creon represents the political as a parapet that keeps him from being destroyed by his errors, his failures and his lies to the citizens. It is clearly Creon who has turned the political into a domestic and personal matter, not Antigone".

In this sense, Antigone is reclaimed as a figure of resistance, not, as it has been said, of the individual against power nor against patriarchy: "Antigone is a pitched battle played out in the scenario of language until Creon’s arrogance and impotency against the dialectic capacity of Antigone breaks the agreement and puts an end to the dialogic. If Antigone were simply the female doomed to end in a sacrificial fight against patriarchy it would not have endured nor would her figure or diction continue to fascinate [...]. What is tragic in the tragedy is the language, not the destiny of some characters who should not be identified with persons in the habitual sense. That is always the tragedy of language, staged at a point in which there is no possibility of judgement nor empathy", the professor explained.

Bibliographic reference:

Carrera, P. (2023). Antígona o la razón espectacular. Signa: Revista de la Asociación Española de Semiótica, 32, 289’308 .