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Stimmel, B. (2005). Reply to Ms Sarasohn. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):896-897.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):896-897

Reply to Ms Sarasohn Related Papers

Barbara Stimmel

Dear Sirs,

‘While the mother's task of separation and differentiation from her children is developmentally significant, Jocasta is not its best literary embodiment.’ This last sentence of Ms Sarasohn's letter regarding Stimmel (2004) captures the problem I find running through her series of suggestions on what I may have missed in my thesis. I am not using Jocasta to explicate a developmental dilemma, thereby claiming her to be its best representative. Rather, I am pointing out that a universal developmental dilemma has significant bearing on Jocasta's behavior which affords a broader, more ‘normal’ narrative. Also, I recognize, and share, Ms Sarasohn's concern that we distinguish between mothers who murder and those who do not.

For some more vulnerable women murderous rage accompanies childbirth as witnessed in our mythology and reality; some mothers hate, maim and murder their children. Powerful as they are, Jocasta, Medea, Hera and Demeter are merely characters in plays and myths but Susan Smith, Andrea Yates and Hedda Nussbaum—all women who murdered or allowed the murder of their children—appear on the front pages of our newspapers. It is easy to forget that Jocasta did not just bed Oedipus; earlier, she tried to kill him in infancy. The stage is set for Jocasta remeeting her son at the intersection of her infantile desires and her maternal longings; a guilty, heartbroken mother longing for her lost child (p. 1182).

Jocasta's murderous and abandoning behavior is never overlooked, with additional and numerous references throughout the paper, for example, ‘Since Jocasta had abandoned him to die in infancy’ (p. 1177); ‘From infanticide to incest, she is a pathological caricature of everywoman’ (p. 1177); ‘Parental abandonment and attempted infanticide …’ (p. 1178); ‘What she now must face, which she chose to risk, is that she has ruined the life of her child, twice’ (p. 1180).

Exaggeration and melodrama run throughout myths in order to engage the unconscious identifications of the audience with those suffering on the stage.

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