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Ziner, F. (1978). The Ghost of Lady Guinevere. Am. J. Psychoanal., 38(2):169-178.

(1978). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 38(2):169-178

Other Voices

The Ghost of Lady Guinevere

Feenie Ziner, M.D.

For the most part, the feminist movement in the United States has been dealing with the problem of altering sexual stereotypes on a conscious and political level. Yet the opposition to ERA and the burgeoning of antifeminist women's groups suggest that there is more to liberation than pointing to the existence of an open door. While technological development has made sexual equality feasible, such equality runs counter to a patriarchal mythology which has enjoyed a 25,000 year ascendency. The regressive appeal to a return to “Total woman” lies in a mythic message which foretells terrible punishment for those who change the script, who defy the heavy hand of fate.

From its beginning, psychoanalysis has used myths to interpret unconscious human behavior. While the Greek myths have yielded stunning insights, they are not the only myths which affect our lives. British mythology has played a large part in the shaping of our national unconscious. Its central male figure is King Arthur. Its central female figure is Lady Guinevere. This essay is an attempt to show that Guinevere is alive and well in the unconscious of contemporary American women, and that in order to attain the liberation to which they consciously aspire, women will have to reckon with a script which dooms them to exile or death if they violate the rules laid down for them by that myth.

To be sure, King Arthur was, mythologically speaking, something of a parvenu. A warrior called Arthur probably did live in southern England around the year 500 A.D. But four-hundred years passed from the time of his death before the legends sung by Welsh bards were given written authority. By the time Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote his history of Britain, Arthur had attained the status of a magical redeemer, and the geography of his exploits had become the Never-Never land of faerie. The stories woven about his realm crossed the channel to France and were carried east with the Crusaders.

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