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Balsam, R.H. (2010). Where Has Oedipus Gone? A Turn of The Century Contemplation. Psychoanal. Inq., 30(6):511-519.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30(6):511-519

Where Has Oedipus Gone? A Turn of The Century Contemplation

Rosemary H. Balsam, M.D.


Sigmund Freud's King Oedipus is still alive and well at the beginning of this second century of psychoanalysis. He has undergone multiple transmogrifications, but he is still with us. He has been analogized, metaphorized, and split into bits of conscience, guilt, fear, omnipotence, power, powerlessness, fate, helplessness, dominance, submission, archaic chaos, and rage. As a father, he was both lost and found recently (Kalinich and Taylor, 2009). He has taken a lowly back seat to his father, Laius (Munder Ross, 1982); been pushed aside for his mother/wife, Jocasta (Stimmel, 2004); been levered out of the central inner drama for women by the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone (Kulish and Holtzman, 1998); turned into a marionette (Cocteau, 1934); contextualized in the nineteenth-century German literary tradition (Rudnytsky, 1987); polygendered as allusive to analyst and analysand's intersubjective impact (Benjamin, 1998); been demanned; and, above all, rendered a castrati (Brook, 1988), in exile self-blinded and leaning heavily on the devotion of his daughter/sister, Antigone (Almansi, 1991). He has been held up to society as an exemplar of the universal workings of the unconscious, of the repetition compulsion; of denial; of sadomasochism; of splitting and isolation of affect; of sexual impulsiveness and violence. He has been described as the “Scapegoat of Fate” (Pollock, 1986, p. 104), of Tiresias, or the gods; or used to interrogate psychoanalytic theory itself and the current chasm between drive and interpersonalism (Greenberg, 1991).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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