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Hierarchy

Hierarchy

Chapter:
(p.82) IV Hierarchy
Source:
Forms
Author(s):
Caroline Levine
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691160627.003.0004

This chapter argues that if we consider closely the workings of hierarchical forms, we will find that they exert a far less orderly and systematic kind of domination than we might expect. It begins with a reading of Sophocles's Antigone. In this tragedy, the playwright sets a number powerful hierarchies in motion, almost all of them organized as simple binaries: masculine over feminine, king over subjects, friends over enemies, gods over humans. As these meet and intersect in the course of the dramatic action, a firm insistence on one hierarchy typically ends up reversing or subverting the logic of another, generating a political landscape of radical instability and unpredictability. The second section of the chapter expands to include other forms: what happens when bounded wholes and rhythms, too, come into the picture, organizing our experience atop or alongside hierarchies? Do these different, nonhomologous forms work with or athwart one another? The focus will be gender norms, a problem of longstanding interest in literary and cultural studies.

Keywords:   hierarchies, gender, race, class, bureaucracy, Antigone, Sophocles, gender norms

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