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Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980: The Image of the Father and the Fear of the Tyrant in the 17th Century. Jean-Marie Apostolides. Pp. 5-14.. Psychoanal Q., 53:640-641.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980: The Image of the Father and the Fear of the Tyrant in the 17th Century. Jean-Marie Apostolides. Pp. 5-14.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:640-641

Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980: The Image of the Father and the Fear of the Tyrant in the 17th Century. Jean-Marie Apostolides. Pp. 5-14.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

We have difficulty in understanding the unconscious of the seventeenth century. Each society delineates a field of the unconscious, for the unconscious is not universal any more than the forms of the family or alimentary practices are. We must

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evoke other "conceptual tools and instruments" to permit an understanding of the seventeenth century and its ancien régime. We cannot equate the paternal imago of nineteenth century Vienna with the seventeenth century view of the king. At the time of the triumph of the absolutism of Louis XIV, the nation utilized the invention of the "king's body" to regard itself as a totality above the traditional categories of the three orders. The king, then, had a double body. He was a private individual, but he was also the symbolic body, who was immortal and through which the nation defined itself. Some playwrights, including Corneille, deal with the personal sacrifices which a king makes as a pact and offering. These constitute a total and irreversible gift which legitimizes the kingship. Sometimes the sacrifice is a symbolic self-mutilation, as in renouncing one love object to marry another for reasons of state. This sacrificial gesture permits the king to leave the universe of men for that of history. When this sacrifice is refused and royal or imperial power is placed in the service of individual and private enjoyment, as in Racine's Nero, we have a tyrant. The father, in order to preserve an uncontested power, destroys the symbolic rapport he has with his children or his subjects. He breaks the pact which permits him to be differentiated from the imaginary; he becomes real, and a tyrant. In Racine, there is a regressive "mutation" in the paternal image, as it changes from the castrating father to the bad mother who may annihilate, destroy, dismember, or devour. A fear becomes manifest: that a woman installed at the heart of the state will set in motion the disorganization of this great machine. Some of the same themes can be seen in seventeenth century comedy. The father may become a tyrant with the express wish to hold on to his daughter for himself or for an alter ego. Thus it is important, in the seventeenth century view of the state and of the nuclear family, that the head of the state or the family be able to control his passions and possess the virtues of self-mastery. There is an appeal made outside the family group with its faulty head. The group invents another father, more distant and powerful, to impose order and security and to complement the political universe.

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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980. Psychoanal. Q., 53:640-641

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