Karakantza, Efimia D. 2020. Who Am I? (Mis)Identity and the Polis in Oedipus Tyrannus. Hellenic Studies Series 86. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_KarakantzaED.Who_am_I.2020.
5. I am Oedipus: Reframing the Question of Identity
ἡ τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἀγάπησις· καὶ γὰρ χωρὶς τῆς χρείας
ἀγαπῶνται δι’ αὑτάς, καὶ μάλιστα τῶν ἄλλων ἡ διὰ τῶν
ὀμμάτων. οὐ γὰρ μόνον ἵνα πράττωμεν ἀλλὰ καὶ μηθὲν
μέλλοντες πράττειν τὸ ὁρᾶν αἱρούμεθα ἀντὶ πάντων ὡς εἰπεῖν
τῶν ἄλλων. αἴτιον δ’ ὅτι μάλιστα ποιεῖ γνωρίζειν ἡμᾶς
αὕτη τῶν αἰσθήσεων καὶ πολλὰς δηλοῖ διαφοράς.
The “who am I?” has now been answered. The after in the reconstitution of the hero’s identity culminates in the new horror of Oedipus’ self-blinding. As we embark on defining the “I am Oedipus” several questions arise.  Why does Oedipus blind himself? Is the motivation for his action consistent with his character, in keeping with the man we have come to know as “our” Oedipus? Additionally, is this an act of violent impulse, or does it result from a calculated appraisal of what the future holds for him? Does Oedipus clarify his action in a manner consonant with the renowned intelligence and determination that characterized his previous life? It is obvious that, in the light of this barrage of questions, the issue of identity has shifted focus. From line 1180 onward Oedipus emerges in full command of his powers to face a difficult new question: how do I now proceed in the knowledge that I have committed parricide and incest? He enters again the moral public space of all difficult decisions, where we act as social beings. He also repositions himself in the webs of interlocution—where this time he is questioned, and where he responds with a lengthy justification of his actions.
WE BEGIN IN THE DARK
AND BIRTH IS THE DEATH OF US
I agree with Alister Cameron’s view that the self-blinding is the central act of the denouement of the play, the transformation through which Oedipus becomes the “actor of his own fate,” and that it “is made to represent and somehow contain all the other acts which have gone before it.”  Oedipus declares himself to be the sole agent  of the blinding (1331–1332):
τις, ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ τλάμων.
The decision to shut himself off from the light of the day is confirmed the moment Oedipus understands the whole truth. The connection between the inner knowledge and the external light, as well as the symbolism of the reversal of this analogy, has become a commonplace in almost all analyses of the play. I shall only remark on how this reversal (a topos in the Sophoclean corpus) is exquisitely captured in Ajax’ apostrophe to darkness: that it is his own light (σκότος, ἐμὸν φάος, Ajax 394) that allows us room to see Oedipus’ apostrophe to light (ὦ φῶς, τελευταῖόν σε προσβλέψαιμι νῦν, 1183) as a possible statement of death. Thus we may understand why Oedipus, in a fit of fury, asks for a sword from the palace servants who witnessed Jocasta’s retreat to the nuptial chamber—is the victim to be Jocasta or himself?  However, death by the sword is not how Sophocles envisages the climax of his narrative. The lifeless body of Oedipus’ wife and mother is already hanging there when he rushes in; all that remains for him is to release her body from the noose, and lay it upon the ground before putting his eyes out with the golden pins of her garment.  Everything is decided and executed within a split second. Then and there, we learn for the first time why Oedipus mutilates himself, as reported by the messenger (1271–1274):
οὔθ’ οἷ’ ἔπασχεν οὔθ’ ὁποῖ’ ἔδρα κακά,
ἀλλ’ ἐν σκότῳ τὸ λοιπὸν οὓς μὲν οὐκ ἔδει
ὀψοίαθ’, οὓς δ’ ἔχρῃζεν οὐ γνωσοίατο.
κρείσσων γὰρ ἦσθα μηκέτ’ ὢν ἢ ζῶν τυφλός.
πατέρα ποτ’ ἂν προσεῖδον εἰς Ἅιδου μολών,
οὐδ’ αὖ τάλαιναν μητέρ’, οἷν ἐμοὶ δυοῖν
ἔργ’ ἐστὶ κρείσσον’ ἀγχόνης εἰργασμένα.
ἀλλ’ ἡ τέκνων δῆτ’ ὄψις ἦν ἐφίμερος,
βλαστοῦσ’ ὅπως ἔβλαστε, προσλεύσσειν ἐμοί;
οὐ δῆτα τοῖς γ’ ἐμοῖσιν ὀφθαλμοῖς ποτε·
πηγῆς δι’ ὤτων φραγμός, οὐκ ἂν ἐσχόμην
τὸ μὴ ἀποκλῇσαι τοὐμὸν ἄθλιον δέμας,
ἵν’ ἦ τυφλός τε καὶ κλύων μηδέν·
Oedipus wishes to reduce himself to a mutilated body, nurturing his wounds in the isolation of a blindness safeguarded by a blockading of his senses. Thus Oedipus’ body becomes doubly mutilated: the original “act” was performed by Laius, the second by Oedipus himself in full consciousness of his action. This last corporeal scarring is equivalent to Oedipus’ giving himself the second feature of his identity, with which he will be known around the world: in a sense, one can discern a “cyclic” formation in Oedipus’ life, which results in a consolidation of the corporeal “dimensions” of his identity.  Performing the second mutilation is the only way to make his earthly existence bearable, and also a way to transport himself to a place where sorrow can no longer touch him, as he himself declares (1389–1390): τὸ γὰρ / τὴν φροντίδ’ ἔξω τῶν κακῶν οἰκεῖν γλυκύ (“it is a joy to live with one’s thoughts beyond the reach of sorrow”). Oedipus languishes, disconnected from the world, while awaiting the announcement of his punishment.
5.2 Who is to Blame? Apollo, Oedipus, or Shared Responsibility?
they first make mad. In fact, whosoever the gods wish
to destroy, they first hand the equivalent of a stick with
a fizzing fuse and Acme Dynamite Company written
on the side. It’s more interesting, and doesn’t take so long.
These sentences introduce the critic’s second thesis, which sees tragedy as a “two-decker affair,” since “the action happens on the human plane, but there is always a divine background”; “Apollo … is still visibly at work in the course of the play,”  aiming to destroy the hero as retribution for Laius’ transgressions in the case of Chrysippus. To my mind, this is a moderate stance that attempts to reconcile the freedom of Oedipus, who chooses his own actions, with his simultaneous outwitting by the god with superior knowledge. As for the family guilt, I truly doubt that this is discernible in Sophocles’ treatment of the myth in Oedipus Tyrannus.
ὁ κακὰ κακὰ τελῶν ἐμὰ τάδ’ ἐμὰ πάθεα. 
ἔπαισε δ’ αὐτόχειρ νιν οὔ-
τις, ἀλλ’ ἐγὼ τλάμων.
τί γὰρ ἔδει μ’ ὁρᾶν,
ὅτῳ γ’ ὁρῶντι μηδὲν ἦν ἰδεῖν γλυκύ;
ἱκανὸς Ἀπόλλων ᾧ τάδ’ ἐκπρᾶξαι μέλει.
With this formulation, the scale tips entirely towards Apollo.
Given that the oracle represents the narrative, then “the actions of Apollo are identical to the constitutive actions of the author, while those of Oedipus, Jocasta, and the rest are but products of those constitutive actions.”  Furthermore, “what Apollo ‘does’ in the OT,” the author argues, “is something that the poet does directly; what Oedipus ‘does’ is something the poet does indirectly.” The divine activity in Oedipus Tyrannus is reflected in the “direct operation of the poet on the plot,” for which no motivation resembling the way humans act is required.  It can also help us to explain, in my view, the trouble we experience in attributing an act of hybris to Oedipus that would conveniently and theologically justify his fall. The many and controversial analyses of the second stasimon, which introduces the notion of the tyrant and his hybris, as well as the many attempts to find Oedipus at fault either in his aggressive attitude to Teiresias and Creon, or in his intellectual pride, point to the futility of any attempt to construct a clear and unobstructed course leading from an “angry,” “offended,” or simply “revengeful” deity to the fallen mortal. 
5.3 Oedipus as a Human Agent
Up until now, critics have been at great pains to prove the degree of divine intervention in human affairs in Oedipus Tyrannus. I suggest taking the reverse course in our critical thinking; what if, instead of trying to determine how much the divine influences the course of events in the play, we examine the opposite perspective and try to establish the degree of human agency manifested in the play? In doing so, we should take the existence of the gods, together with the theological system they comprise, as an indispensable and constitutive part of the tradition within which Sophocles and his contemporary Athenians lived, breathed, and wrote. Sophocles composes a play that acknowledges this tradition; how could he do otherwise? Nevertheless, within this tradition, he creates a play that studies the boundless limits of human action. Sophocles constructs his Oedipus as an intelligent human being making decisions after intense deliberation, despite the circumscribed boundaries of his life; here, the playwright faces a challenge greater than in any other traditional narrative.
We have to realize, therefore, that the “conceptual system involved in our representation of what is willed”  differs significantly from that of the ancient Greeks.
5.3.1 The notion of the will
5.3.2 Subjective responsibility and individualism
5.3.3 Divine and human Action: A new creation
For Castoriadis, society “institutes itself in instituting the world of significations that is its own, in correlation to which, alone, a world can and does exist for it”;  in other words, “society brings into being a world of significations and itself exists in reference to such a world.”  Of course, this has to be understood in the context of the process of the “self-institution” of Athenian society, where an institution, which is a socially sanctioned symbolic network, comprises both a functional and an imaginary component.  Since Greek tragedy in particular is one of the main domains of the imaginary, where the re-conceptualization of social significations are formed and explored, we would expect to find there this active creation that comprises the notion of self, the individual, and the agent in the socio-historical context of fifth-century Athens. Human agency presupposes autonomy, and refers to “the relationship between the individual and society, and to the individuals’ self-constitution within their specific social context in order to become subjects of action capable of transforming their reality.”  This creation, of course, acknowledges the “pre-political” (in Castoriadis’s sense) existence of the gods and their oracles, and the constraints they impose on mortal lives. The “pre-political” is never fully eradicated, and under certain circumstances will resurface again, when classical political thought weakens in the face of other structures, where the active citizen is replaced by an individual subject to a Hellenistic king or Roman emperor. However, in Greek tragedy, when we are still en plein classical thought, viable forms of the individual, in correlation with the collective, are tried out so as to ensure the continuation of the unobstructed life of the polis. To this end, the social significations should be re-imagined or thought of and consequently sustained or modified;  “whatever has been imagined strong enough,” argues Castoriadis, “to shape behavior, speech, or objects can, in principle, be re-imagined (represented) by somebody else.” 
5.3.4 Rounding up the Argument