The Howl of Oedipus, the Cry of Héloïse

Edith Wyschogrod

in Crossover Queries

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226061
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235148 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

The Howl of Oedipus, the Cry of               Héloïse

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This chapter argues that the discursive formations within the episteme of asceticism are bound up with the self-imposition of corporeal and psychic pain or privation, but contends that not all pain and privation, even when self-generated, is ascetic. It claims that the cry of Oedipus, far from being akin to a scream uttered in response to physical injury, a biological reflex, is a distillate of a certain telos (“purpose”) and of a complex discursive formation, one that is different from asceticism. In what follows, four interrelated claims are considered. Within the structure of asceticism, gaps or fissures appear in its understanding of love, pleasure, and pain in the form of an eroticism that asserts and denies itself. This is especially evident in the correspondence of Héloïse d'Argenteuil and Peter Abélard. The view of the body that emerges presages a new, postmodern understanding of asceticism and its relation to ethics.

Keywords: asceticism; pain; privation; Oedipus; eroticism; Héloïse d'Argenteuil; Peter Abélard; ethics; body; pleasure

Chapter.  6765 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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