The Oedipus Casebook

Reading Sophocles' Oedipus the King


Michigan State University Press


A new translation of the play with facing Greek text and selections from a stellar assortment of critics


Available from: AmazonBookshop | B&N | IndieBound


Who killed Laius? Most readers assume Oedipus did. At the play’s end, he stands convicted of murdering his father, marrying his mother, and triggering a deadly plague. Assembling all the evidence, this book reopens the Oedipus case and lets readers judge for themselves.


"Anspach’s introduction re-illuminates the oblique and groundbreaking readings of Oedipus by Jean-Pierre Vernant, Michel Foucault, and René Girard, among others. This is a superb compilation."

—Neni Panourgiá, Columbia University, author of the award-winning Dangerous Citizens: The Greek Left and the Terror of the State


"The strength of the book lies in the choice of invigorating essays... Mark Anspach has done brilliantly to combine a wide range of scholarly interests, from Burkert and Delcourt’s anthropological history to Terry Eagleton’s literary criticism, while maintaining a clear, common thread in the strong emphasis on the context of ritual, the scapegoat (pharmakos), and the superficiality of Oedipus’ guilt... Anspach’s playful selection rewards prolonged study, showing us, as Vernant says, how the Oedipus has ‘lent itself to so many counter-readings’ (p. 301)... The translation does what it sets out to do: it is punchy, functional, close to the original Greek, and so a good support for a student trying to pick apart the language; as a consequence, it can on occasion lack some of the smoothness that might be desirable in an English-first course or as a text for performance... These criticisms notwithstanding, reading this book is a joyful and enriching experience. The editor has selected a wonderfully rewarding, challenging and coherent group of essays and placed them alongside a cogent and helpful translation. No student who reads this book will be left in any doubt about the brilliance and depth of the Oedipus, nor will they be short of tools for probing and analysing Sophocles’ play. I recommend it enthusiastically, especially to those designing a college course on Oedipus the King."

—Daniel Hogg, Bryn Mawr Classical Review


"This is a very useful tome that I will certainly be drawing on in my teaching of Classical Civilisation for inspiration, ideas and when I need a really close translation."

—Chloë Barnett, The Journal of Classics Teaching


"After a brilliant new translation of Oedipus Tyrannus by Wm. Blake Tyrrell, Mark R. Anspach collects classic articles on the scapegoat and drama in ancient Greece, Oedipus as pharmakos/scapegoat, and Oedipus in a judicial setting, clearly guilty or clearly innocent... It is one of the strengths of this anthology that it includes views that are contradictory, thus allowing the reader to read and interpret the play with fresh eyes. A challenging and refreshing book."

—Todd M. Compton, author of Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History (Center for Hellenic Studies / Harvard University Press)


"A book like this is overdue. It should spark lively debate inside and outside the classroom."

—Kurt Fosso, Professor of English, Classics Faculty, Lewis & Clark College


"great book for anyone interested in Girardian theory and/or in Greek tragedies and myth in general."

—Richard Cocks, State University of New York-Oswego


"Expertly edited by Mark R. Anspach, The Oedipus Casebook is an important contribution to the study of one of the greatest tragic dramas in the Western canon. It is an excellent resource for scholars, teachers, and students, and it will become an essential point of reference for examining the primary text, Sophocles, Greek tragedy, myth, ritual, and sacrifice... The translation is briskly paced and riveting... In the midst of a pandemic... Oedipus the King, c. 429-425 BCE, is all the more disturbingly resonant."

COV&R Bulletin review by William E. Cain, Wellesley College, co-editor of the Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism


From the preface to The Oedipus Casebook:

"Guilty or not, one man cannot be the sole cause of his city’s ills. Clearly, more is at work in the downfall of Oedipus. Helene Foley recognizes in him 'the kind of leader a democracy would both love and desire to ostracize.' Perhaps that is why the cathartic cycle enacted in the theater of Dionysus still speaks to our own enlightened age. It continues to play out around us."