Psychoanalysis and the Roman Imaginary

Ellen Oliensis

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Psychoanalysis and the Roman Imaginary

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In those vertiginous years after the midpoint of the last century, when so many new forms of criticism were making their way into classical studies, many Latinists were probably relieved that Sigmund Freud had made so much more of Sophocles' Oedipus than (say) Ovid's Narcissus, thereby largely sparing them the labour of refutation. Narcissus had his part to play in the development of psychoanalysis. It was thinking about narcissism that made Freud discard the dualism of sexual and self-preservative (‘ego-’) drives, and which launched his most far-ranging speculations on the dynamics of identification and introjection. For Freud, the ego is not born but made. For Jacques Lacan and Jean Laplanche, by contrast, it is less made than made up, a dangerously persuasive fiction. If there was ever a drama of the imaginary, Plautus's Amphitruo, with its fantastically elaborated exploration of the theme of the double, would seem to be it. Bringing on stage doubles who are more inclined to hate than to love, the play offers a fine aggressive complement to Ovid's Narcissus episode.

Keywords: Sigmund Freud; Oedipus; Narcissus; psychoanalysis; narcissism; ego; Jacques Lacan; drama; imaginary; Amphitruo

Article.  6554 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Philosophy ; Classical History

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