Oedipus as Reader in Georges Rodenbach's La Vocation
Abstract

Taking as its focus Georges Rodenbach's 1895 novel, La Vocation, this article examines both the Decadents' redefinition of relationships in the traditional Oedipal triangle and their resituation of the hero's role in enlightened male readers. Rodenbach's narrative may restage a familiar drama in which the child's parricidal fantasies are magically fulfilled, an absent father introjected as ego ideal becomes a god who punishes the son for coveting the mother, and religion instills the guilt incurred by violating the incest taboo. But while adopting the Oedipus story, Rodenbach shifts the focus away from the child's indulgence in forbidden desires and onto the mother's choreographing her son's enactment of impulses that chain him to the world and prevent him from escaping into religion. More importantly, Rodenbach's text constitutes its reader as the true hero whose lucidity enables him to gaze into the mirror of the novel and apprehend a truth to which the protagonist is blind.


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