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Tragedy and otherness: Sophocles, Shakespeare, psychoanalysis

By Nicholas Ray

Abstract

The thesis is concerned with the relationship between psychoanalysis and tragedy, and the way in which psychoanalysis has structured its theory by reference to models from tragic drama - in particular, those of Sophocles and Shakespeare. It engages with some of the most recent thinking in contemporary French psychoanalysis, most notably the work of Jean Laplanche, so as to interrogate both Freudian metapsychology and the tragic texts in which it claims to identify its prototypes.\ud \ud Laplanche has ventured an ‘other-centred’ re-reading of the Freudian corpus which seeks to go beyond the tendency of Freud himself, and psychoanalysis more generally, to unify and centralise the human subject in a manner which strays from and occults some of the most radical elements of the psychoanalytic enterprise. The (occulted) specificity of the Freudian discovery, Laplanche proposes, lies in the irreducible otherness of the subject to himself and therefore of the messages by which subjects communicate their desires. I argue that Freud’s recourse to literary models is inextricably bound up with the ‘goings-astray’ in his thinking. Laplanche’s work, I suggest, offers an important perspective from which to consider not only the function which psychoanalysis cells upon them to perform, but also that within them for which Freud and psychoanalysis have remained unable to account.\ud \ud Taking three tragic dramas which, more or less explicitly, have borne a formative impact on Freud’s thought, and which have often been understood to articulate the emergence of ‘the subject’, I attempt to set alongside Freud’s own readings of them, the argument that each figures not the unifying or centralising but the radical decentring of its principal protagonists and their communicative acts. By close textual analyses of these three works, and by reference to their historical and cultural contexts, the crucial Freudian motif of parricide (real or symbolic) which structures and connects them is shown ultimately to be an inescapable and inescapably paradoxical gesture: one of liberty and autonomy at the cost of self-division, and of a dependence at the cost of a certain autonomy

Topics: PN
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:3052

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