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Euripides, Freud, and the Romance of Belonging

Victoria Pedrick

Publication Year: 2007

Freud's interpretation of the ancient legend of Oedipus—as formulated in Sophocles' tragic drama—is among the most widely known concepts of psychoanalysis. Euripides' Ion, however, presents a more complex version of the development of personal identity. Here, the discovery of family origins is a process in which parent and child both take part as distinct agents driven by their own impulses of violence and desire. Euripides, Freud, and the Romance of Belonging studies the construction of identity and the origins of the primal trauma in two texts, the Ion and Freud’s case history of the Wolf Man. Victoria Pedrick challenges the conventional psychoanalytic theory of the development of the individual within the family, presenting instead a richer and more complex economy of exchange between the parent and the child. She provides a new perspective on Freud's appropriation of ancient texts and moves beyond the familiar reunion in Oedipus to the more nuanced scene of abandonment present in Ion. Her parallel investigation of these texts suggests that contemporary culture remains preoccupied by the problems of the past in the determination of identity. Pedrick's fresh perspectives on both texts as well as on their relationship to each other shed new light on two foundational moments in the intellectual development of the West: Greek tragedy and Freudian psychoanalysis.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

I had just begun work on this book when my son was born; he is now twelve. The book finally appears thanks to the help and encouragement of many colleagues and friends. Three people deserve my special thanks, Molly Myerowitz Levine, Jane Brown Gillette, and John Glavin. Early on, Molly shared with me her own store of evidence and reflections on the ancient practices of abandonment, a gift ...

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Note on Names, Texts, and Translations

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p. ix

I transliterate most names following the Greek alphabet—thus Kreousa and Xouthos—except where the Latinized form of the name is especially familiar, as with Apollo. Freud is quoted from the Standard Edition, cited as SE, and from hisGesammelte Werke, cited as GW. Quotations from Freud by page number only are from the case history of the Wolf Man, ‘‘From a History of an Infantile Neurosis,’’published in volume 17 of SE. Euripides’ Greek text is the Oxford text of ...

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pp. 1-9

Despite their disparity, the two texts I study in this book grapple in similar ways with the question of how and why our origins affect our identities. The first is Euripides’ Ion, a tragedy about a young boy’s reunion with his mother, a princess of Athens, who exposed him as an infant. With disasters thrillingly averted, Ion heads from Delphi, where he was raised, to Athens as its future king. The Ion ...

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1. The Romance of Belonging: Texts and Contexts

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pp. 10-54

Euripides’ Ion and Freud’s ‘‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’’ are both clearly deeply concerned with foundation, of the city of Athens and of psychoanalysis, and each has been studied as a master narrative authenticating that foundation. Both texts also suggest the problematic of constructing an authoritative account. Kreousa’s flat claim of murder is eerie, since she plainly has not ...

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2. Competing Accounts

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pp. 55-101

The romance of belonging destabilizes attempts at an authoritative account of its operation and goals; its outcome immediately obscures the process. Yet the desire to belong needs this obscurity, because it makes the resulting identity seem inherent and tidy. Freud’s ‘‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’’ and ...

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3. Profit and Loss in Belonging

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pp. 102-151

Despite his refusal to characterize his new acquisition as such, his denial that he is ‘‘seizing goods in reparation’’ expresses a reality that cannot be completely refuted. Both perspectives are necessary in the final dispositions for Ion; both the technical and the personal belong in the Athenian royal accounts. Freud and the Wolf Man are also caught up in a complicated dance of recompense and gratitude. Pankejeff has been paying bills for his analysis for years, but in Freud’s ...

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4. Recognition: Embracing a Deadly Flame

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pp. 152-183

Fiery images are unexpectedly important for understanding the romance of belonging in both Euripides and Freud, because an odd association of figures comes together in their recognition scenes: stereotype, embrace, and fire. The stereotype substitutes for identity, while the embrace forecloses further inquiry into its nature by changing perspective so that the trauma cannot be seen. Such seems to ...

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pp. 184-190

This book has looked at the choices that bind a family together and form a romance of belonging—a tale of the past with present reality. Since that past looked into the future as it made its choices, the present stands in an uneasy relationship to the past. In our consciousness, the present has hegemony over its past, but an unconscious anxiety remains whether this present is the future that the past made its choices by. At the outset, I set Euripides’ tragedy beside Freud’s ...


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pp. 191-238

Works Cited

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pp. 239-250


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pp. 251-257

E-ISBN-13: 9780801893346
E-ISBN-10: 0801893348
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885945
Print-ISBN-10: 0801885949

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 647867810
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Euripides, Freud, and the Romance of Belonging

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Subject Headings

  • Pankejeff, Sergius, 1887-1979.
  • Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939.
  • Self in literature.
  • Euripides. Ion.
  • Psychoanalysis and literature.
  • Ion (Greek mythology) in literature.
  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
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