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Timms, E. (1991). Freud and Oedipus: By Peter L. Rudnytsky. New York: Columbia University Press. 1987. Pp. 416.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 18:570-572.

(1991). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18:570-572

Freud and Oedipus: By Peter L. Rudnytsky. New York: Columbia University Press. 1987. Pp. 416.

Review by:
Edward Timms

This ambitious work seeks to situate the theory of the Oedipus complex within an intellectual tradition which extends from the revival of classical themes in the work of Lessing and Winckelmann through to the Marxist oriented critique of Deleuze and Guattari. Rudnytsky's impressive range of reference enables him to analyse the fascination exerted by Sophocles'Oedipus the King on a pantheon of celebrated authors and aesthetic theorists, including Schiller, Schelling, Hölderlin, Kleist, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger. He also analyses the implications of this debate for late twentieth-century critical theory, including structuralism and anti-psychiatry. As a result his book abounds in challenging lines of argument, both for psychoanalysts and for cultural historians.

The value of this approach depends on the assumption that Freudian theory needs to be related to a nineteenth-century intellectual tradition if we are to understand the centrality of the Oedipus complex. When the German Romantics rebelled against Seneca and French neo-classicism and asserted the primacy of Oedipus the King, they inaugurated the 'age of Oedipus' (p. x). Rudnytsky argues that nineteenth-century German literature and thought were pervaded by 'a veritable obsession with the Oedipus myth' (p. 96). Freud was a relative late-comer in a 'hermeneutic tradition of self-reflection' (p. xi), which culminated in the work of Nietzsche. His insight into his own neurosis enabled him to transform what had hitherto been a philosophical debate into a psychologically grounded theory of conflict and attachment.

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