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Rose, G.J. (1991). Tragic Drama and the Family: Psychoanalytic Studies from Aeschylus to Beckett: By Bennett Simon. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988, xiii + 274 pp., $30.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:284-287.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:284-287

Tragic Drama and the Family: Psychoanalytic Studies from Aeschylus to Beckett: By Bennett Simon. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988, xiii + 274 pp., $30.00.

Review by:
Gilbert J. Rose, M.D.

Since its origins in the fifth century B.C., tragic drama has been concerned with warfare within the family endangering future generations. Related to the problem of maintaining or severing family continuity is the question of building or dissolving meaningful connections in the form of storytelling. Interweaving these two themes of family warfare and anxiety about narration, Bennett Simon makes an erudite and eloquent contribution to interdisciplinary studies.

The epic drama that preceded tragedy assumed an ongoing audience of new progeny to whom one could relate never-ending tales of heroic forbears. Along with the epic sense of family perpetuity, epic drama took a relatively serene view of women and reproduction—projecting negative images onto the perils of the external would like Scylla and Charybdis.

With the transition from the epic to the tragic mode, emphasis shifted from warfare outside to within the family. Intrafamilial aggression brought in sacrifice, scapegoating, guilt, and the repetition of trauma. Along with this there developed an apprehension about speaking of unspeakable deeds that might threaten the perpetuation of future generations. Growing anxiety about speaking shows itself in formal changes: for the first time, silences and pauses become significant.

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