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Green, A. (1975). Orestes and Oedipus. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 2:355-364.

(1975). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 2:355-364

Orestes and Oedipus

André Green

It is a truism that we are the inheritors of Greek culture. An old fashioned notion; and we are witnessing now a very strong reaction against the confinements of this cliché. Endlessly we hear that we should to-day broaden our conception of man by considering Greek culture as just one among others, being itself influenced by others. We should also bear in mind that this crucial event in western civilization, Greek tragedy, lasted for about fifty years. Nevertheless we do not cease to raise new questions about the causes and consequences of our supposed origins in this cultural tradition.

Is it true that to-day Greek tragedy is a topic of interest for specialists only: professors of classics, historians and philosophers? Is it true that its genuine meaning is lost and that we no longer vibrate to its accent? Artaud dared to say that if Oedipus Rex has no impact on our emotional life then we must come to the conclusion that Oedipus Rex is wrong and we are right. For a psychoanalyst such an affirmation cannot be accepted without a radical investigation. Are we indifferent to Oedipus Rex or have we developed a kind of cultural immunity to it since Freud explained the reasons for its tremendous impact? In other words, by discovering the pathways along which the meaning of this tragedy reaches and affects us, and by exposing them to our culture, Freud has forced us to defend ourselves against his intrusion. It is not so much that we have lost the capacity to be involved in this drama but that we have developed a reaction to Freud's explanation which we to-day find banal.

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