Oedipus’s major handicap in life is not knowing who he is—and both parricide and incest result from his ignorance of his identity. With two questions—“Who am I?” and “Who is my father?”—on his mind (and on his lips), the obsessed Oedipus arrives at the oracle of Delphi.
Unlike the majority of modern and postmodern readings of Oedipus Tyrannus, Efimia Karakantza’s text focuses on the question of identity. Identity, however, is not found only in our genealogy; it also encompasses the ways we move in the public space, command respect or fail to do so, and relate to our interlocutors in life. But overwhelmingly, in the Greek polis, one’s primary identity is as a citizen, and defining the self in the polis is the kernel of this story.
Surveying a wide range of postmodern critical theories, Karakantza follows the steps of the protagonist in the four “cycles of questions” constructed by Sophocles. The quest to piece together Oedipus’s identity is the long, painful, and intricate procedure of recasting his life into a new narrative.