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Mann, D. (1993). The Psychoanalytic Theory of Greek Tragedy by C Fred Alford. Published by Yale University Press, London, 1992; 218 pages; £18.50.. Brit. J. Psychother., 10(2):290-292.

(1993). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 10(2):290-292

The Psychoanalytic Theory of Greek Tragedy by C Fred Alford. Published by Yale University Press, London, 1992; 218 pages; £18.50.

Review by:
David Mann

This is an interesting book that is about more than just Greek tragedy, covering philosophy and politics as well as psychoanalysis. Alford takes the view that the insights of the ancient Greek poets are often more profound than psychoanalysis. Some people may think this is debatable but I for one would not disagree. If the reader is not already familiar with all the extant Greek tragedies a lot of the richness of this book will be missed.

Alford points out that much of the previous psychoanalytic investigation into the Greek poets has merely applied psychoanalytic theories to the plays, seen the theories confirmed and thus pronounced the poets' insights as correct and compatible with or proving psychoanalytic theory. Alford starts with the reverse view: that the plays have something to teach us and that psychoanalysis can be ‘enlarged’ by the tragedies. This means that where important themes in the plays do not seem explicable in psychoanalytic theory, the theory itself is revised to take them into account. The plays set the standard.

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