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Reviews307 friction in the essays, however, perhaps constitutes their strength, for, to use a distinction formulated by Roland Barthes in his (structural) study of die Genesis story ofJacob's struggle with the angel, it prompts us to move from structural insights to a textual analysis that can embrace die tensions and differences within the text. University of OregonSharon Larisch TAe Sacred Complex: On the Psychogenesis of "Paradise Lost, " by William Kerrigan; vii & 344 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983, $25.00. Like Harold Bloom, William Kerrigan views Milton as a strong figure whose prophetic power is articulated within a complex of relations which binds the Oedipus complex to religious notions of genesis and apocalypse. At one point Kerrigan asks, "How was this man [Milton] able to extend his paternity to the recollected coherence of the Word of God?" (p. 1 1). As everyone knows, Milton is a celebrated case ofpoetic hubris, a man who overtly asserts he willjustify the ways ofGod to man, implicidy assuming he can do so by writing a text that may even supersede Scripture. This point, made so overtly in Paradise Lost, is never overlooked for long by Miltonists, and though many people notice it, there has as yet to be a definitive study written on the question of Milton's ambiguous stand vis à vis his precursors, ofwhom God is one. Ofcourse, The Sacred Complex attempts to be such a study, and though it is by no means the last word on the topic, it does open up some fresh and interesting avenues for speculation. In the introduction to the book, Kerrigan says, "my study of Milton has led me to posit the existence of a 'sacred complex,' refashioning the superego and reworking the layers of mental structure implicit in the superego" (p. 8). Thus Kerrigan promises a psychoanalytic reading which explores Milton's poetic hubris in terms of a "sacred complex" involving a formation of the superego that would explain the "strong figure" within Milton's poetic vision. In this way, Kerrigan would go beyond the Bloomian anxiety principle. Key to such a project is the focus upon the relation of Milton to the figure of Christ. Kerrigan argues that Milton must overcome his narcissistic identification with Christ — he assumes we will accept the idea that Milton and Christ can both be viewed as similar since they are sons — and that Milton must find resolution in an OedipEd construction . Later, Kerrigan points out that going beyond narcissism means the establishment of a superego in an Oedipal construction which will open up onto an interpretation of the sacred. Whereas Freud saw in culture die imposition of laws or codes which we internalize as the superego, Kerrigan sees in religion a similar tendency. Here Kerrigan owes a debt to Paul Ricoeur^ Freud and Philosophy. He takes from Ricoeur the idea that through access to religious symbols, Milton — Ricoeur uses Sophocles as an example — partakes in an archaeological and eschatological project: the working back to archaic structures (i.e. , die primitive or drives) and die working forward to transcendent, spiritual dimensions (i.e., the sacred, the holy, God). Kerrigan's 308Philosophy and Literature situating of Milton in terms of this "hermeneutic" allows for a Freudian reading not antipathetic to religion. It also allows Kerrigan to posit questions about mastery, authority, subordination, belatedness, culture, and creative maturation. "In his early searches for God, I believe that Milton attached Christ to the ego-ideal, his vision of an ego perfectly responsible to, and therefore fully rewarded by, the superego" (p. 81). This "attachment" serves not only to define for Kerrigan a stage of psychological development (ego-ideal to superego) but serves as a clue for artistic expression, and functions as a means for sighting Milton's eschatological project as well. The major problems widi Kerrigan's study are the absence of a metapsychological theory upon which the literary perceptions about the superego can be made credible, and the crude overreduction of Ricoeur^ notion of symbol. For Ricoeur the symbol is an intentional structure in the Husserlian sense, whereas for Kerrigan it has more in common with a new critical tradition, reminding one of analyses of Eliot's The Waste Land done...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 307-308
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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