Who Am I? (Mis)Identity and the Polis in Oedipus Tyrannus

  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.


To my beloved children
Aspasia, Dimitris, and Athina
Who had to learn how to fall
Before learning how to fly

They all fly now, with elegance and kindness …

In the long years devoted to the research and writing of this book on Oedipus, I came to realize that I cannot really distinguish between the people who supported me emotionally and those with whom I was engaged in an intellectual dialogue. In most cases the two categories happily overlapped. Now is the time to say thank you to them all.

I begin by expressing my deep gratitude to Gregory Nagy, who cherished me with his intellectual support and precious friendship. Over the years he stood by me whenever I needed guidance and encouragement, and it was always with great kindness that he offered them to me. The Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC, this hospitable place for the Hellenists of the entire world, became my home for the Fall semester of the academic year 2010–11, when I held a residential fellowship; and again, in the winter of 2016, during my brief stay as a visiting scholar. At the Center, I was fortunate to be able to discuss intellectual matters with the fellows of the year 2010–11, and the three ‘wise men’—Gregory Nagy, Leonard Muellner and Douglas Frame. Friendly faces made my life easier, too, and facilitated my research greatly: I thank with all my heart Zoie Lafis, Noel Spencer, Lanah Koelle, and the wonderful librarian, Temple Wright, who were always kind and supportive. For this beautiful book I also owe much to Jill Curry Robbins and the CHS publications team (of course, I alone am to blame for all its faults).

My very special thanks go to Gonda Van Steen, who was actually the first reader of my finished manuscript, and gave me her sincere approbation even before the book was accepted for publication. Her enthusiasm and encomiastic comments gave me an unprecedented stimulus to continue.

Back at my home institution, the University of Patras, I feel the need to thank wholeheartedly my colleagues at the Department of Philology, who approved my sabbatical leave, which enabled me fully to engage with this book. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Spyridon Rangos, who read part of the book at an earlier stage and generously gave me his learned advice; he was also among the first to read the book in its final version and render his approbation. Angeliki Syrkou, an esteemed colleague and a dear friend, patiently listened and cleverly responded to my ideas about Oedipus. As expected, the innumerable discussions I have had with my students of the University of Patras (especially my classes on Sophocles, Greek Myth, the Reception of Ancient Greek Drama in Literary Criticism and Art, and, lately, on Feminist Thought and Classics) have been an abiding source of inspiration. With my students I have talked—inside or outside the classroom—about all the thorny issues in the interpretation of Oedipus, in antiquity as well as in modern criticism and reception. I thank them all.

From among my former students I single out a few, who are now valuable friends, and to whom I address from here my deepest gratitude for their love and support. Marietta Kotsafti has always been there for me; she supported me greatly when I was in dire straits, and she has been my unfailing and perceptive interlocutor over the years—I simply owe her much more than I can tell in a few lines. Gesthimani Seferiadi and Alexandros Velaoras are still working with me; their intelligence and kindness make me feel that my role as a teacher is duly justified. My ‘junior’ former students Andreas Filippopoulos and Alexandros Frantzis are promising examples of the new generation educated in Classics.

In the long years of the making of the book, I relied on my editor, the recently deceased Jonathan Smith, when struggling with the language and the sometimes-convoluted ideas about Oedipus. Ηis intelligence, erudition, and linguistic sensibility gave my text elegance and clarity. I consider myself fortunate to have had a friend like him in times of great distress.

My love for the tales of the ancient Greeks began with the greatest storyteller I have known, my father, whose bedtime stories always involved Heracles, the wise centaur Chiron, and the angry Achilles. I can trace the very remote beginnings of this book back to those stories of his. Even in his very old age, he sought to refresh his clouded memory of those tales. “What did Hector reply to Andromache?” he asked me a few weeks before he died, only to hear his favorite answer: “I have to go back to the fray, my beloved Andromache, for I have learned to be one of the best, always fighting in Troy’s first ranks for all the Trojans.” With his life and mind, my father always served unfailingly the common good.

This book is dedicated to my beloved children: Aspasia, Dimitris and Athina. Raising them has been the joy of my life. They are now beautiful young adults pursuing their own paths of life; but most of all, they are kind, generous, and compassionate toward other human beings. I am simply very proud of being their mother.

Lastly, there is Takis Zambetis, whom I cannot but thank for loving me the way he does. Ηe makes my life beautiful. Σ’ ευχαριστώ Τάκη μου.

Athens/Piraeus 2019