9/5: Psychoanalytic Criticism and Antigone

Psychoanalytic Criticism and Antigone

The Oedipus complex as founding myth of the psyche and social relations

What if we were to begin with Antigone? Or, in Judith Butler’s terms, “What happened to the heirs of Oedipus?”

A place to think through a psychoanalytic term: “the return of the repressed” (page 100)

The return of the repressed: difficult paradoxical things that are prohibited or erased from the “conscious” (think cultural mind here too), come back to haunt us. Think of this in terms of ghosts that want a way back to the surface of the world to remind us that they have fallen to the underworld on our behalf. We are becoming to our ghosts (literally).

Remember that we want to open the doors a bit on what “incest” signifies:

Incest: intensification of power; sameness or likeness ; doubling; relations in degrees that are “proximate” but not normative (meaning: “too close for comfort” but not recognizable in terms of social or psychical categories – think again about Senator Craig’s predicament: “gay”? “straight”? or something in between that doesn’t have a “name”? Here’s where things get interesting….); kinship (what is kinship?)

Incest is social-cultural category. The incest prohibition is meant to prevent those who are “too closely related” from entering into marriage. What does this mean exactly? The binary of “opposites attract.” This has significant implications not just for “sameness,” but also for the very limits of what counts as “reproduction.”

Beyond the nettles of the sexualized and gendered biases that inform psychoanalysis, what terms and concepts seem compelling and empowering?

“Screen memory” (page 98)

Barry charges Freud with “misreading,” but really, one of the most powerful aspects of psychoanalysis is its implicit assertion that all reading is mis-reading (what do I mean here?). Lacan.

The performative (and performances) of psychoanalysis (see page 109 and Julia Kristeva’s description of Lacan’s lectures) – “Tell me a story….” “Let’s pretend…” What does this tell us about the power of affect, of “feeling.”

Lacan and his understanding of language


First, let me tell you a story about Tiresias…..

Now, go to lines 988-1022; or pages 110-11 in the Penguin ed.]

The scene between Tiresias and Creon

First, make a list of observations about any and all significant elements to this scene:

The language, the imagery, the allusions and proclamations

What are the messages informing this scene?

BUT, also, the “stuff in between”: Map it out: where would they stand if you were planning this as a performance? Would Tiresias and the boy hold hands or stand at opp. ends of the performance space, or…? What might they do with their hands and bodies?

Now, draw from both (the observations and elements list and your map of the performance) to make a claim about “incest” in this passage (and try to relate it to some of what we are bringing to the fore re: incest and kinship)


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