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Reviews147 conceptualize our history has been a concern of critical theorists for some time now. Bernal is not likely to be the favorite son of either traditional scholars or "deconstructionists" since he genuinely believes there is something important to be discussed apart from textual aporias (if only the ongoing history of their construction). But one has the feeling that the current volume and the project it promises are likely to prove landmark events in an emerging sense—in the shadow of Auschwitz—of the limitations of the self-understanding in which we have been living since romanticism. Cornell UniversitySandor Goodhart Freud and Oedipus, by Peter L. Rudnytsky; xvi & 416 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, $30.00. What if we were to turn the methods and insights of psychoanalysis—and especially those that Freud groups under the name "Oedipus"—back upon Freud himself? Could we, for example, come to see his construction of the Oedipus complex—and perhaps of psychoanalysis at large—as an expression of conflicts hidden from his own conscious and rational control? To undertake such a project, we would need to know a great deal about psychoanalytic inquiry and Freud's life. We would also want to know something about nineteenthcentury European intellectual traditions from which psychoanalytic inquiry and the theme of Oedipus are drawn. And we would probably also want to know something about the enigmatic ancient Greek play which Freud found so consonant with his concerns. The project is as ambitious as it is attractive and no small part of the merit of Peter Rudnytsky's book is that he begins it at all. Three long "parts" address successively Freud's biography, the usage by nineteenth-century European writers of the theme of Oedipus in drama and philosophy, and Sophocles' play. Rudnytsky is well situated to undertake these pursuits. He has long been interested in Freud—he wrote his dissertation at Yale, working with Harold Bloom among others on Freud, Milton, and Sophocles. He seems to have mastered the requisite languages. And perhaps most importandy, he seems cognizant of the increasing hermeneutic sophistication in this country over the last twentyfive years or so which is inseparable from the material itself. In addition, his thesis seems extraordinarily fertile—that the drama of Oedipus ' self-discovery is for Freud far more than a methodological tool and in fact constitutive both of psychoanalytic theorizing and Freud's own self-defi- 148Philosophy and Literature nition; moreover, he holds that the same terms would appear resonant in a surprising number of other major philosophic thinkers (Hegel and Nietzsche, for example). In the long central section Rudnytsky lays the groundwork for arguing that this drama is the veritable filigree of philosophic self-construction in the nineteenth century, a period we might henceforth plausibly designate the "age of Oedipus." But if this thesis is the source of the book's power, it is also the source of its liabilities. For Rudnytsky's treatment is quintessentially thematic. His book in this regard is a litde like Frank Sulloway's Freud, Biologist ofthe Mind which lays out the case for Freud's indebtedness to late nineteenth-century biologism. But psychoanalysis, it may be argued, is born less at those moments where Freud implements regnant biologism than at others where such models fail him, where the demands of a scientific psychology in which he was trained are insufficient to account for observed behavior and more "suggestive," "transferential," or ideogenic explanations are required. Similarly, in each of the three domains he enters, Rudnytsky ironically suppresses the very structurative conflicts that enable his observations and offers instead their transfigured representation. His reading of Sophocles' play is a good example. Rudnytsky is right to argue that Freud reads Oedipus much the way the mainstream of classical tradition (after Aristode and Hegel) does— as a straightforward (if artistically heightened) illustration of the mythic contours , an ironic "tragedy of destiny." But it is not at all clear that Sophocles reads that way. In fact, it may be argued that far from illustrating this (or any other) myth, Sophocles takes such mythic thinking as his very subject matter, "deconstructing" the monstrous, sacrificial, and violendy self-destructive gestures by which Oedipus constructs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 147-148
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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