“Failing splendidly” and the price of success

Viktoria Huegel

With Euripides’s Bacchae Honig, in A Feminist Theory of Refusal (2021), chooses a story that easily can be read as an “errant path”: the story of a group of “honey-mad” women who, driven by a Dionysian force, slaughter their own kin and are eventually put back into place by fatherly reprimand. Against that, Honig retells the story of the women of Cithaeron as what W.E.B. Du Bois called a “splendid failure” - “a possibility first nurtured outside the city is extinguished, but memory remains” (p. 5). In the three moments that I look at in the following, we find an affirmative politics and a politics of celebration that Honig herself follows in her writing: she lays new foundations upon which future democratic struggle can build. The narrative of “failure,” even in the “splendid form” that Honig employs, however, misses an important aspect of the story: namely the violence and forms of domination that held back the city. Honig reproaches Arendt for not being attuned to the archive’s logic of closure that prevents the seeds of the women’s struggle to flourish in the city. But is Honig? Recognizing the conditions that have led to the bacchant’s failure might push us to think about the work of reformation, or rather transformation, as part of a revolutionary feminist struggle.

Institut für Politikwissenschaft
Res Publica: Revista de Historia de las Ideas Políticas
ÖFOS 2012
603116 Politische Philosophie, 506013 Politische Theorie
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 16 – Frieden, Gerechtigkeit und starke Institutionen
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