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Kulish, N. Holtzman, D. (1998). Persephone, the Loss of Virginity and the Female Oedipal Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 79:57-71.

(1998). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 79:57-71

Persephone, the Loss of Virginity and the Female Oedipal Complex

Nancy Kulish and Deanna Holtzman

The ancient myth of Persephone and her mother, Demeter, has been characterised as the most important myth about women and the mother-daughter relationship. Previous psychoanalytic interpretations of the myth have neglected its depiction of the girl's defence against a sense of agency over her sexuality. The authors present two examples of the use of this myth by an analytic patient and the writer, Edith Wharton. Both women consciously identified in childhood with the figure of Persephone. Aspects of the myth contributed to a central unconscious fantasy that illuminated their dynamics and sexual conflicts. The authors argue that the Persephone myth is essentially a portrayal of the oedipal dilemma that emphasises a conflict of loyalty towards father and mother, fear of loss of virginity and adult sexuality and a peaceful resolution. The female oedipal conflict is seen as different from that of the male, because the girl competes with the mother on whom she must depend as primary care-giver. Separation issues are encompassed within the female oedipal phase proper. It is proposed that the Persephone complex is better suited to representing women's issues than is the myth of Oedipus.

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