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(1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Why Oedipus Killed Laius. George Devereux. Pp. 132-141.. Psychoanal Q., 23:615.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Why Oedipus Killed Laius. George Devereux. Pp. 132-141.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:615

International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953: Why Oedipus Killed Laius. George Devereux. Pp. 132-141.

When sexual relations between children and adults occur, the adult is usually the seducer. Yet in psychoanalytic writings counteroedipal attitudes have been neglected in favor of a phylogenetic explanation of the child's Oedipal attitudes.

Even the original legend of Oedipus reveals that Oedipus's attitude toward Laius was determined by Laius's own character structure, rather than by Oedipus's spontaneous Oedipal impulses. Laius's fate was determined by his homosexual propensities and aggressions against his infant son and against Oedipus. Thus Oedipus's 'oedipal' attitudes were primarily elicited by the conduct of his father.

Pelops, even more than Oedipus, was the victim of paternal aggression, yet he piously revered his cruel father, Tantalus. The myths concerning him—one of an oral, the other of a homosexual relationship—reflect erotized anxiety in relation to a cannibalistic or homosexual paternal ogre.

'Fate' in Greek tragedy means little more than 'character structure'. This is strikingly revealed by the role assigned to hybris (excess) in causing man's downfall. Genuine 'psychologizing' is a relatively late literary device; Greek dramatists had to formulate psychological insights in terms which their audiences could accept as plausible literature.

The Oedipus complex must be viewed as the result of repression. The child's oversensitiveness to slights should be thought of as epiphenomenal to its sensitiveness to minimal tokens of love. This sensitiveness is one of the chief homeostatic mechanisms of the child. The Oedipus complex is the outcome also of parental counteroedipal attitudes, and homosexual conflicts play an important role in its genesis. To overcome it, the male must pass from sublimated passive to sublimated active homosexuality. Women must pass from sublimated active to sublimated passive homosexuality. In the sexual sphere the concepts 'active' and 'passive' may have primarily homosexual pregenital roots.

In mythology, bowdlerized or divergent versions of a myth repeat the same latent basic theme, though sometimes in the language of another psychosexual stage of development. Despite changes in the manifest content, the latent content remains the same. This finding has important consequences for an understanding of the psychology of lying, the problem of forensic cross-examination, and the metapsychological background of the interpretation of partially structured projective tests such as the Thematic Apperception Test.


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Article Citation

(1954). International Journal of Psychoanalysis. XXXIV, 1953. Psychoanal. Q., 23:615

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