Antigone’s Autochthonous Voice: Echoes in Sophocles, Hölderlin, and Heidegger

JVF Conference Papers

In the summer semester of 1942, Heidegger delivered his third and final lecture course on Hölderlin, subsequently published as Hölderlins Hymne »Der Ister«.

The poet’s descriptions for the Danube, whose source is in the Black Forest, must have resonated deeply with the philosopher’s rustic proclivities. Heidegger was more interested in preserving this idyllic terrain than marshalling its resources for global domination. He was already in the process of shifting his attention away from Nietzsche, the advocate of will to power, towards more tranquil possibilities within Hölderlin’s poetry. In the Ister lectures, Heidegger presents poetry as the primary linguistic means for allowing beings to emerge into appearance—not for purposes of usefulness or manipulation, but simply to let beings be. The poet recognizes his own historical topography as that of a configuration of beings long in the making. In Hölderlin’s case, this includes the realization that what it means to be German remains rooted in the ground of what it once meant to be Greek. These issues of autochthony, for the poet and his people, allow Heidegger to revisit related concepts from Sophocles’ Antigone. Instead of characterizing Antigone as a rebellious voice postured against the polis, as he had done in the 1935 Introduction to Metaphysics lectures, Heidegger now associates the heroine with a particular sort of dwelling, in close proximity to Being.

However, by making this shift, he neglects the excessive attributes of the ecstatic human being, an important existential component of Greek tragedy, in order to submerge human identity within its ground.

Download pdf