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Ross, J.M. (1995). King Oedipus And The Postmodernist Psychoanalyst. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:553-571.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:553-571

King Oedipus And The Postmodernist Psychoanalyst

Review by:
John Munder Ross, Ph.D.

Oedipus, Philosopher. By Jean-Joseph Goux, trans. C. Porter. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1993, 227 pp.

Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis. By Victoria Hamilton. London: Karnac, 1993, 336 pp., £17.95.

Transmission de la Vie Psychique entre Generations. By R. Kaës, H. Faimberg, M. Enriquez, & J. J. Baranes. Collection Inconscient et Culture, ed. R. Kaës & D. Anzieu. Paris: Dunod, 1993, 208 pp.

Freud and Forbidden Knowledge. Edited by Peter L. Rudnytsky & Ellen Handler Spitz. New York: New York Univ. Press, 1994, 186 pp.

The story of Oedipus the King, dramatized most memorably in the first of Sophocles' three dramas about the tragic fate of Oedipus and his family, has fascinated philosophers, and more recently psychoanalysts, through the millennia. Plato and Aristotle saw in the tragedy a parable for the pitfalls of hubris and tyranny, while later, more democratically inclined philosophers such as Hegel and Nietzsche cast more congenial eyes on the heroic protagonist's momentous discovery. For them Oedipus' Promethean and prototypical act of self-reflection signified the very inception of Western thought. Later still, turning his attention from the heights of consciousness personified in Oedipus' quest to the hero's (and all humankind's) unconscious depths, Freud discerned not so much Oedipus' visionary powers as his blindnesses—his (and our) failures in insight, hindsight, foresight. For Freud, Oedipus became Everyman. His myth offered itself as a paradigm, a metaphor that in its turn allowed Freud to articulate the unseen, unfathomable, and universal “Oedipus complex,” which, drawn into his own frame of reference, became “the shibboleth” on which psychoanalysis stood or fell. Freud had, he and his disciples averred, identified with his ancient protagonist, like him “solving the Riddle of the Sphinx and becoming a man most mighty.”

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