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Some Remarks on Oedipus and Writing

The Letter, Issue 5, Autumn 1995, Pages 50 - 67


Andre Michels

The pre-occupation with Oedipus, with the so-called Oedipus and castration complexes, is an unbroken thread which runs through Lacan's oeuvre, especially his seminars.

Involved here are the following questions:

- what is its status?

- what is its relationship to myth and to tragedy?

- to what extent does it contribute to an understanding of clinical material and therefore to psychopathology?

- above all, what is its value in the practice of interpretation?


It emerges very clearly from Freud's letters to Fliess that the Oedipus drama stands at the beginning of psychoanalysis. Taking the Sophoclean reading of the Oedipus myth as his point of departure, he succeeded in arriving at a new reading of the clinical material that was at his disposal.

At first he was convinced of the perversion of fathers (Perversion der Voter) until he recognized in this a product of the neurotic fantasy. Since then, this recognition has become the point of departure for every deliberation and assertion that claims to be psychoanalytical. The conscious fantasy and therefore the scenario of perversion has the same structure as the unconscious fantasy of the neurotic. For this reason Freud very early on understood hysteria as the negative of perversion.[1] (That is, in the same sense that we speak of a photographic negative). Psychosis forms itself on the basis of an inadequate or absent fantasy, the structure of which it preserves and accurately reproduces. The case is similar to the so-called psychosomatic illness, which runs its course on a completely different level, - that of the body. The bodily somatic system arises at the place where the fantasy offers the subject no protection. This protective function takes three forms: first against perversion, second against psychosis, and third, against somatic illness.

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