Transcript: Naomi Morgenstern on Oedipus Complex Made Simple | May 18, 2003

Naomi Morgenstern stands behind a wooden lectern and addresses an unseen audience. She's in her late thirties, with wavy brown hair. She's wearing rounded glasses, a gray suit, and a white shirt.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Naomi Morgenstern. University of Toronto. Oedipus Complex Made Simple."

Naomi says I WANT TO
START WITH TWO EPIGRAPHS UM,
SORT OF RATHER PERVERSELY UH,
FROM THE MAN KNOWN FOR MAKING
PSYCHOANALYSIS EXTRAORDINARILY
DIFFICULT.
THE FRENCH PSYCHOANALYST
JACQUES LACAN.
SO THIS IS THE FIRST EPIGRAPH.
"WHEN WE STUDY A MYTHOLOGY, FOR
EXAMPLE, ONE THAT MIGHT PERHAPS
APPEAR WITH RESPECT TO A
SUDANESE POPULATION, WE
DISCOVER THAT FOR THEM THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX IS JUST A
RATHER THIN JOKE.
IT'S A VERY TINY DETAIL WITHIN
AN IMMENSE MYTH.
THE MYTH ALLOWS THE CATALOGUING
OF A SET OF RELATIONS BETWEEN
SUBJECTS OF A WEALTH AND
COMPLEXITY BESIDE WHICH THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX SEEMS ONLY TO
BE SO ABRIDGED IN ADDITION THAT
IN THE END CANNOT ALWAYS BE
USED."
UH, AND THE SECOND SHORTER
EPIGRAPH ONE OF THE THINGS WE
SHOULD BE WATCHING OUT FOR MOST
IS NOT TO UNDERSTAND TOO MUCH.
INTERPRETING IS AN ALTOGETHER
DIFFERENT THING THAN HAVING THE
FANCY OF UNDERSTANDING.
YOU CAN'T NEGOTIATE YOUR WAY
THROUGH PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY
WITHOUT STUMBLING OVER THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX.
IN FACT, IT HAS BEEN ARGUED
THAT THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF
PSYCHOANALYSIS IS COEXTENSIVE
WITH ALL THE TWISTS AND TURNS
AND ACCOMPANY THE ELABORATION
OF FREUD'S FAMOUS DISCOVERY.
SO I WOULD LIKE TO TALK BRIEFLY
TODAY ABOUT SOME, NOT ALL OF
THESE TURNS AND TWISTS, WHAT
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX WAS FOR
FREUD, HOW HE DISCOVERED IT.
I PUT THE WORD DISCOVERY IN
QUOTATION MARKS TO REGISTER AS
MUCH AS FREUD LOVED
ARCHAEOLOGICAL METAPHORS, THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX WAS CERTAINLY
NOT SIMPLY AN UNEARTHED TRUTH.
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX GENERAL
IMPORTANCE TO PSYCHOANALYTIC
THEORY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY, HOW
IT CHANGED IN FREUD'S OWN
THINKING, AND HOW IT CHANGED
FREUD'S OWN THINKING, HOW OTHER
ANALYSTS AND NON-ANALYTIC
THINKERS HAVE EXPANDED OR
REJECTED OR ALTERED ITS TERMS
AND FINALLY WHY THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX MIGHT STILL BE
COMPELLING TODAY.
I PERSONALLY FIND FASCINATING
THE DOUBLENESS WHEREBY THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX IS BOTH A
HISTORICAL CURIOSITY AND AN
ADORING IDEA.
WHEN I TEACH AN INTRODUCTORY
COURSE ON PSYCHOANALYSIS AND
LITERATURE I BEGIN BY SAYING
THAT WE ALL ALREADY KNOW
SOMETHING ABOUT PSYCHOANALYSIS.
FOR IT INFORMS OUR CULTURE AND
OUR POPULAR CULTURE.
I ASKED THE STUDENTS TO FREE
ASSOCIATE THEN TO FREUD.
WHAT ARE THE FIRST WORDS,
IDEAS, IMAGES THAT COME TO
MIND?
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX IS ALWAYS
ONE OF THE ANSWERS.
IT IS BOTH INVOKED AS EXTREMELY
FAMILIAR AND AS SOMETHING TO BE
RESISTED.
FREUD SAYS YOU WANT TO KILL
YOUR FATHER AND SLEEP WITH YOUR
MOTHER, RIGHT, SOMETHING LIKE
THAT?
I DON'T RESPOND TO THIS IN
REDUCTIVE FREUDIAN FASHION.
YOU RESIST BECAUSE IT IS ALL
TOO TRUE, YES, MEANS YES AND NO
MEANS YES.
NOW TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR
MOTHER.

[audience laughing]

Naomi continues FOR WE ENCOUNTER THE QUESTIONS
AND PROBLEMS GENERATED BY
FREUDIAN INTERPRETIVE
PRINCIPLES SOON ENOUGH.
WE TALK INSTEAD ABOUT HOW THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX SEEMS
PROBLEMATICALLY REDUCTIVE,
SCHEMATIC, EVERY LIFE MUST FIT
THIS FRAME OR SUFFER THE
CONSEQUENCES.
ONE NEED NOT BE A ROMANTIC
INDIVIDUALIST TO BALK AT THIS
ACCOUNT OF HUMAN LIVES.
IN OTHER WORDS THE STUDENTS
IMMEDIATELY LOCATE A CENTRAL
PROBLEM.
AS LITERARY THEORISTS SHOSHANA
FELMAN WRITES, "ANY FREUDIAN
READING IS BOUND TO UNCOVER THE
SAME MEANING, THE ULTIMATE
SIGNIFIED OF HUMAN DESIRE, THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX."
FOR THE RECORD I'LL ADD THAT
ELSEWHERE FELMAN COMPLICATES
THIS VERY CLAIM.
DEPENDING ON WHO WAS TAKING THE
CLASS WE MIGHT ALSO TALK ABOUT
THE SILLY, EMBARRASSING OR
OFFENSIVE EMPHASIS ON INCEST OR
CASTRATION OR BY THE WAY HOW
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX SEEMS TO
TELL US NOTHING ABOUT WOMEN.
FREUD BEGINS A LATE ESSAY
THROUGHOUT HISTORY PEOPLE HAVE
KNOCKED THEIR HEADS AGAINST THE
RIDDLE OF THE NATURE OF
FEMININITY.
ONE IS HARDLY REASSURED.
IN A RECENT THEORY LITERARY
ANTHOLOGY THAT INCLUDES SEVERAL
PSYCHOANALYTIC SELECTIONS, THE
EDITORS HAVE EDITED OUT THE
OEDIPAL SCENARIO WITH
ACCOMPANYING CASTRATION
COMPLEX.
FOR THEY ARGUE THAT IT HAS BEEN
DISCREDITED.
I FIND THIS EDITORIAL DECISION
STRANGE TO SAY THE LEAST FOR IT
WOULD SEEM TO DISMISS AS SIMPLE
FALSE PRECISELY WHAT NEEDS TO
BE READ.
FAR FROM BEING IRRELEVANT THEN,
I FOUND THAT THESE ASSOCIATIONS
PRODUCED BY THE STUDENTS ARE AN
EXTREMELY PRODUCTIVE PLACE TO
START OUR YEARLONG PROJECT OF
READING FREUD.
BY THE TIME THE TERM OEDIPUS
COMPLEX FIRST APPEARED IN PRINT
IT WAS 1910 BUT BY THEN IT WAS
A WELL ESTABLISHED CONCEPT.
THE EARLIEST REFERENCES TO THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX DATE FROM
FREUD'S SIGNIFICANTLY EARLIER
CORRESPONDENCE.
HE WAS ENGAGED IN THE PROJECT
OF SELF-ANALYSIS, THE
IMPOSSIBLE ORIGIN FOR ALL LATER
ANALYSES, FOR SELF-ANALYSIS IS
BY DEFINITION IMPOSSIBLE.
FREUD WRITES IN OCTOBER OF 1897
TO HIS FRIEND WILHELM FELICE,
"SO FAR I HAVE FOUND NOTHING
COMPLETELY NEW, JUST ALL THE
COMPLICATIONS TO WHICH I HAVE
BECOME ACCUSTOMED.
IT IS BY NO MEANS EASY BEING
TOTALLY HONEST WITH ONESELF IS
A GOOD EXERCISE.
A SINGLE IDEA OF GENERAL VALUE
DAWNED ON ME.
I HAVE FOUND IN MY OWN CASE,
TOO, THE PHENOMENON OF BEING IN
LOVE WITH MY MOTHER AND JEALOUS
OF MY FATHER AND I NOW CONSIDER
IT A UNIVERSAL EVENT IN EARLY
CHILDHOOD.
IF THIS IS SO WE CAN UNDERSTAND
THE GRIPPING POWER OF OEDIPUS
REX.
IN SPITE OF ALL THE OBJECTIONS
THAT REASON RAISES AGAINST THE
PRESUPPOSITIONS OF FATE,
EVERYONE IN THE AUDIENCE WAS
ONCE A BUDDING OEDIPUS IN
FANTASY AND EACH RECOILS IN
HORROR FROM THE DREAM
FULFILLMENT HERE TRANSPLANTED
INTO REALITY WITH THE FULL
QUANTITY OF REPRESSION WHICH
SEPARATES HIS INFANTILE STATE
FROM HIS PRESENT ONE," END
QUOTE.
MOST FAMILIAR MANIFESTATION
THEN, THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX IS
ALL ALREADY THERE IN 1897.
LOVING ONE'S MOTHER, BEING
JEALOUS OF ONE'S FATHER,
INFANTILE SEXUALITY,
REPRESSION.
TWO WEEKS LATER A POSSIBLY
MIFFED FREUD WOULD WRITE TO THE
SAME FRIEND, QUOTE, "YOU'VE
SAID NOTHING ABOUT MY
INTERPRETATION OF OEDIPUS REX
SINCE I'VE NOT TOLD IT TO
ANYONE ELSE BECAUSE I CAN WELL
IMAGINE IN ADVANCE THE
BEWILDERED REJECTION, I SHOULD
LIKE TO HAVE A SHORT COMMENT ON
IT FROM YOU," END QUOTE.
FREUD'S FIRST PUBLISHED AN
EXTENDED CONSIDERATION OF
SOPHOCLES' PLAY APPEARS IN BIG
BOOK, "THE INTERPRETATION OF
DREAMS IN 1900."
IT WAS ACTUALLY PUBLISHED IN
1899 BUT IT WAS CLOSE AND FREUD
WANTED 1900 TO APPEAR ON THE
TITLE PAGE.
THE ACCOUNT IN "THE
INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS" IS A
SLIGHTLY REWORKED VERSION OF
WHAT FREUD HAD SAID IN HIS
LETTER, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHIC
DIMENSION IS REMOVED.
QUOTE "BEING IN LOVE WITH THE
ONE PARENT AND HATING THE OTHER
ARE AMONG THE ESSENTIAL
CONSTITUENTS OF STOCK OF
PSYCHICAL IMPULSES.
THIS DISCOVERY IS CONFIRMED BY
A LEGEND THAT HAS COME DOWN TO
US FROM CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY.
A LEGEND WHOSE PROFOUND AND
UNIVERSAL POWER TO MOVE CAN
ONLY BE UNDERSTOOD IF THE
HYPOTHESIS I PUT FORWARD IN
REGARD TO THE PSYCHOLOGY OF
CHILDREN HAS AN EQUAL UNIVERSAL
VALIDITY.
WHAT I HAVE IN MIND IS THE
LEGEND OF KING OEDIPUS AND
SOPHOCLES' DRAMA WHICH BEARS
HIS NAME.
OEDIPUS' DESTINY MOVES US ONLY
BECAUSE IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
OURS," END QUOTE.
ONE NOTES HERE IN "THE
INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS" THAT
THE SUBJECT OF THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX, EVERYONE THAT IS, IT
IS THE UNIVERSAL SUBJECT, HAS
NO PARTICULAR SEX WHICH
PROBABLY MEANS THAT HE IS MALE
AND THIS IS PARTICULARLY IRONIC
AND TO THE POINT AS THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX WILL BECOME FOR FREUD
THE PLACE WHERE SEXUAL
DIFFERENCES ESTABLISH.
I'LL SAY MORE ABOUT THIS
MOMENTARILY.
THERE'S ALSO THE SENSE HOWEVER
AT THIS STAGE IN FREUD'S
THINKING THAT BOYS AND GIRLS
ARE SIMPLY OPPOSITE.
WHATEVER APPLIES TO THE BOY IS
REVERSED AND APPLIES TO THE
GIRL.
QUOTE, "A CHILD SEXUAL WISHES
IF IN THEIR EMBRYONIC STAGE
THEY DESERVE TO BE SO DESCRIBED
AWAKEN VERY EARLY.
A GIRL'S FIRST AFFECTION IS FOR
HER FATHER AND A BOY'S FIRST
CHILDISH DESIRES ARE FOR HIS
MOTHER.
ACCORDINGLY THE FATHER BECOMES
A DISTURBING RIVAL TO THE BOY
AND THE MOTHER TO THE GIRL.
THE PARENTS, TOO, GIVE EVIDENCE
AS A RULE OF SEXUAL PARTIALITY,
A NATURAL PREDILECTION USUALLY
SEES TO IT THAT A MAN TENDS TO
SPOIL HIS LITTLE DAUGHTERS
WHILE HIS WIFE TAKES HER SON'S
PART.
THOUGH BOTH OF THEM, WHERE
THEIR JUDGEMENT IS NOT
DISTURBED BY THE MAGIC OF SEX
KEEP A STRICT EYE ON THEIR
CHILDREN'S EDUCATION," END
QUOTE.
IMPOSITING THE UNIVERSALITY OF
OEDIPUS, FREUD I WOULD ARGUE
MAKES A CRUCIAL AND REPEATED
GESTURE WHICH CHARACTERIZES HIS
WORK MORE GENERALLY.
THAT IS HE DECONSTRUCTS THE
OPPOSITION BETWEEN THE NORMAL
AND THE PATHOLOGICAL BY ARGUING
IN A SENSE THAT EVERYBODY IS
PATHOLOGICAL OR PERVERSE.
THUS HE VALUES THE UNDERVALUED
TERM PATHOLOGICAL OR PERVERSE
ULTIMATELY DISPLACING THE
OPPOSITION.
HERE FREUD SAYS FOR EXAMPLE
QUOTE, "THE CHIEF PART IN THE
MENTAL LIVES OF ALL CHILDREN
WHO LATER BECOME
PSYCHONEUROTICS IS PLAGUED BY
THEIR PARENTS.
IT'S NOT MY BELIEF HOWEVER THAT
PSYCHONEUROTICS DIFFER SHARPLY
IN THIS RESPECT FROM OTHER
HUMAN BEINGS WHO REMAIN NORMAL.
THEY'RE ONLY DISTINGUISHED BY
EXHIBITING ON A MAGNIFIED SCALE
FEELINGS WHICH OCCUR LESS
OBVIOUSLY AND LESS INTENSELY IN
THE MINDS OF MOST CHILDREN,"
END QUOTE.
WHILE HISTORICALLY
PSYCHOANALYSIS HAS FUNCTIONED
IN SOME CONTEXTS AS A
DISCIPLINARY AND NORMALIZING
DISCOURSE, I WOULD UNDERLINE
THAT THIS IS AN IMPORTANT SENSE
A DEPARTURE FROM AND A
DISTORTION OF FREUD'S WORK.
IN FACT, THE DISCUSSION OF
OEDIPUS IN "THE INTERPRETATION
OF DREAMS" AND THE INTENSE
PASSIONS AND AGGRESSIVITY IT
COMES TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH ARE
A PART OF A SECTION ON TYPICAL
DREAMS AND MORE SPECIFICALLY
DREAMS CONSIDERING THE DEATH OF
THOSE WE LOVE AND THAT I WILL
ADD WHILE OEDIPUS MAY SEEM TO
PLAY A MINOR ROLE IN FREUD'S
MAJOR WORK THERE ARE NOT MANY
REFERENCES TO OEDIPUS IN THE
ENTIRE DREAM TONE.
ITS PLACE IS CRUCIAL FOR HERE
FREUD COULD BE SAID TO OFFER US
THE WHOLE IN MINIATURE.
HE OFFERS US THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX AS A WAY TO UNDERSTAND
THAT QUOTE, "DREAMS ARE
DISGUISED FULFILLMENTS OF
REPRESSED WISHES," END QUOTE
WHICH IS THE ARGUMENT OF "THE
INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS."
BUT PERHAPS WHAT IS MOST
INTERESTING IN FREUD'S BRIEF
DISCUSSION OF OEDIPUS IN "THE
INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS" IS
WHAT HE HIMSELF BARELY COMMENTS
ON.
HE WRITES THAT QUOTE, "THE
ACTION OF THE PLAY CONSISTS OF
A PROCESS OF REVEALING WITH
CUNNING DELAYS AND EVER
MOUNTING EXCITEMENT THAT
OEDIPUS HIMSELF IS THE MURDER
OF LAIUS AND FURTHER THAT HE IS
THE SON OF THE MURDERED MAN IN
JOCASTA, A PROCESS THAT FREUD
ADDS CAN BE LIKENED TO THE WORK
OF A PSYCHOANALYSIS," END
QUOTE.
WHAT A FASCINATING FRAGMENT OF
A SENTENCE.
IN OTHER WORDS IT IS NOT MERELY
THE CONTENT OF OEDIPUS' STORY
THAT'S IMPORTANT ALTHOUGH THAT
IS WHAT EVERYBODY SEEMS TO
REMEMBER.
IT IS IN ADDITION HIS
RELATIONSHIP TO HIS OWN STORY
OR HISTORY.
THIS, TOO, SHOULD BE THOUGHT OF
AS PARADIGMATIC.
OEDIPUS, LIKE A PATIENT IN
ANALYSIS OR LIKE US ALL CANNOT
SIMPLY BE PRESENTED WITH THE
TRUTH OF HIS PAST.
FREUD TRIED THIS EARLY ON WITH
SOME OF HIS PATIENTS WITH LESS
THAN STELLAR RESULTS AND SORT
OF EARLY ON IN THE HISTORY OF
PSYCHOANALYSIS WHEN FREUD
THOUGH THAT HE HAD SORT OF
DISCOVERED WHAT SOMEBODY'S
UNCONSCIOUS CONFLICT WAS HE
WOULD JUST TELL THEM AND SAY
OKAY, NOW IT'S JUST YOUR
PROBLEM.
UM, AND THAT DIDN'T WORK.
AND PRETTY EARLY ON HE LEARNED
THAT DIDN'T WORK.
UH, AND INSTEAD UM... THAT'S
REALLY WHERE ANALYSIS STARTS
AND THE ANALYSTS MUST THEN
RECREATE HIS OR HER PAST AND
CLAIM IT ARDUOUSLY AND
PAINFULLY AND THAT'S THE HARDER
WORK OF ANALYSIS.
UM, I'M GOING TO JUMP AHEAD TO
A FOOTNOTE OF 1920.
IT IS A NOTE TO ANOTHER ONE OF
FREUD'S MAJOR TEXTS,
"THREE ESSAYS ON THE THEORY OF
SEXUALITY" FIRST PUBLISHED IN
1905.
THIS IS A STRIKING MOMENT IN
FREUD'S WRITING EVEN AS IT IS
LITERALLY A MARGINAL ONE AS WE
CAN SEE HERE THE UNQUESTIONABLY
CENTRAL POSITION THAT THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX HAS COME TO
OCCUPY.
FREUD ASSERTS THAT THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX IS QUOTE "THE NUCLEAR
COMPLEX OF THE NEUROSES AND
CONSTITUTES THE ESSENTIAL PART
OF THEIR CONTENT THAT IT
REPRESENTS THE PEAK OF
INFANTILE SEXUALITY AND THUS IS
A TURNING POINT IN EVERYONE'S
DEVELOPMENTAL HISTORY."
FREUD WOULD EVEN SEEM TO CLAIM
THAT THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX
SEPARATES US OUT AS HUMAN
BEINGS FROM ALIEN LIFE FORMS.
QUOTE--

[audience laughing]

Naomi continues IT'S NOT THAT EXCITING.
"EVERY NEW ARRIVAL ON THIS
PLANET IS FACED BY THE TASK OF
MASTERING THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX."
END QUOTE.
THERE'S A LOT OF DIVISION GOING
ON HERE.
OEDIPUS DIVIDES THE BOYS FROM
THE GIRLS AND THIS BECAME THE
FOCUS OF A SERIES OF ESSAYS
WRITTEN IN THE 1920s AND 30s
INITIATES CIVILIZATION WITH A
CAPITAL C IN THE MYTH OF TOTEM
AND TABOO AND PERHAPS MOST
IMPORTANTLY TO FREUD,
DETERMINES WHO WAS A GENUINE
PSYCHOANALYST.
FREUD WRITES, QUOTE, "WITH THE
PROGRESS OF PSYCHOANALYTIC
STUDIES, THE IMPORTANCE OF THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX HAS BECOME MORE
AND MORE CLEARLY EVIDENT.
ITS RECOGNITION HAS BECOME THE
SHIBBOLETH THAT DISTINGUISHES
THE ADHERENCE OF PSYCHOANALYSIS
FROM ITS OPPONENTS," END QUOTE.
AS AN ASIDE I'D ADD THAT
CONTROVERSY OVER THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX HAS NEVER ENTIRELY
DISAPPEARED.
IN FACT, IT REAPPEARED IN
POLEMICAL WRITING BY VERY
DIFFERENT FIGURES SUCH AS
FREDERICK CRUZ AND MIKHAIL
BORJACOBSON IN THE 1990s.
BORJACOBSON CLAIMS THAT THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX NAMES A PROBLEM
NOT A SOLUTION.
FINDING A SCANDAL BENEATH THE
SCANDAL HE WRITES "FREUD LEFT
THE ASTONISHED WORLD WITH AN
OEDIPAL UNCONSCIOUS.
TRUE WE ARE ALL OBSESSED WITH
INCEST BUT DO WE KNOW THAT IT
IS BECAUSE WE ARE LIVING IN A
WORLD FASHIONED BY THE HYPNOTIC
PACT BETWEEN Dr. FREUD AND HIS
PATIENTS," END QUOTE.
FREUD WOULD BE PLEASED, NOT
WITH RESPECT TO THE SENSE OF
THE SCANDALOUS BUT RATHER THAT
WE CAN READ HIM AND DO READ HIM
AS A HISTORIAN OR ARCHAEOLOGIST
OF THE PSYCHE.
IDENTITY FORMATION FOR FREUD
EVEN IN ITS SUPPOSEDLY MOST
NORMAL FORM IS A PROBLEM AND IN
KEEPING WITH THIS IDEA HIS
WRITINGS OF THE 20s AND INTO
THE 30s COULD BE SAID TO BE
LESS INTERESTED IN THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX WHICH BECOMES
INCREASINGLY MORE COMPLICATED
THAN IN HOW ON EARTH WE EVER
GET BEYOND IT OR WHEN WE DO
WHAT IT LEAVES BEHIND.
IN AN EARLIER ESSAY ON
"MOURNING AND MELANCHOLIA,"
FREUD EXPLORED WHAT WE DO WHEN
WE LOSE A BELOVED OBJECT AND
HAD SUGGESTED THAT THE
PATHOLOGICAL RESPONSE TO LOSS
IS NOT TO GIVE UP AT ALL BUT TO
PRESERVE THE LOVED ONE WITHIN
THE PSYCHE IN AN ACT OF
INCORPORATION.
IN EXPLORING THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX HOWEVER FREUD WOULD GO
ONTO SUGGEST THAT THE
SUPPOSEDLY PATHOLOGICAL
PROCESS, REFUSING TO LOSE THE
LOVED OBJECT IS HOW ONE GET
PAST THE CRITICAL OEDIPAL
MOMENT AND FORMS A SUPER EGO,
THE BADGE OF SUCCESSFULLY
SOCIALIZED SUBJECT.
ONE NO LONGER NEEDS ONE'S
PARENT TO THE EXTENT THAT ONE
HAS BECOME THEM.
WHEN THE OEDIPAL RIVALRY WITH
THE FATHER BECOMES
INSUPPORTABLE, I'M SIMPLIFYING
HERE.
ONE GIVES IT UP THROUGH AN
INTENSIFIED IDENTIFICATION.
ONE BECOMES IN OTHER WORDS THE
VERY OBJECT OF AMBIVALENCE.
THE SIMULTANEOUSLY HATED AND
BELOVED FATHER.
FREUD WRITES ON THE POST-
OEDIPAL FORMATION OF THE SUPER
EGO QUOTE "THE SUPER EGO
HOWEVER IS NOT SIMPLY A RESIDUE
OF THE EARLIEST OBJECT CHOICES
OF THE ID, IT ALSO REPRESENTS
AN ENERGETIC REACTION FORMATION
AGAINST THOSE CHOICES.
IT'S RELATION TO THE EGO IS NOT
EXHAUSTED BY THE PRECEPT, YOU
OUGHT TO BE LIKE THIS, LIKE
YOUR FATHER, IT ALSO COMPRISES
THE PROHIBITION YOU MAY NOT BE
LIKE THIS, LIKE YOUR FATHER,
THAT IS YOU MAY NOT DO ALL THAT
HE DOES SOME THINGS ARE HIS
PREROGATIVE.
THIS DOUBLE ASPECT OF THE EGO
IDEAL DERIVES FROM THE FACT
THAT THE EGO IDEAL HAD THE TASK
OF REPRESSING THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX.
INDEED IT IS TO THAT
REVOLUTIONARY EVENT THAT IT
OWES ITS EXISTENCE," END QUOTE.
ALTHOUGH PERHAPS IT IS WORTH
NOTING THAT TO THE EXTENT THAT
ONE IS SUCCESSFULLY INITIATED
INTO THE SOCIAL OR WHAT LACAN
CALLS THE SYMBOLIC ORDER, THE
REVOLUTION HAS BEEN PUT DOWN.
THE REVOLUTION ACCORDING TO
FREUD HAPPENED ONCE AND FOR ALL
TIMES IN THE PRE-HISTORY OF
CIVILIZATION.
BUT IF THIS VERSION OF EVENTS
SEEMS CONVOLUTED, THE COMPLEX
GETS EVEN MORE COMPLICATED.
FOR FREUD ADMITS HE HAS OFFERED
US A MERE SIMPLIFICATION OR
SCHEMATIZATION OR WHAT I
ENCOURAGE DISBELIEVING STUDENTS
TO THINK OF AS A THEORETICAL
FICTION OR ALLEGORY.
WHAT FREUD HAS NARRATED FOR US
THE BOY'S LOVE FOR HIS MOTHER
AND AMBIVALENT RIVALRY IN
RELATIONSHIP TO HIS FATHER,
WHICH IS AT ONCE OVERCOME AND
IN A SENSE PRESERVED IN THE
SUPER EGO IS WHAT FREUD CALLS
THE SIMPLE POSITIVE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX IN A BOY.
THERE IS ALSO THE NEGATIVE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX IN A BOY.
LOVE FOR THE FATHER AND
AMBIVALENCE TOWARD THE MOTHER
AND THEN OF COURSE THERE'S THE
GIRL'S RELATIONSHIP TO BOTH THE
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE
CONFIGURATIONS WITH ROLES
REVERSED ACCORDINGLY.
AND BELIEVE ME IT DOES NOT STOP
THERE FREUD ALSO ASSUMES THAT
EVERYONE IS BISEXUAL WHICH
MEANS FOR FREUD WHICH ONE
INSIGHTFUL CRITIC HAS POINTED
OUT THAT EVERYONE POSSESSES TWO
DISCREET HETEROSEXUALITY'S.
FREUD WRITES "CLOSER STUDY
USUALLY DISCLOSES THE MORE
COMPLETE OEDIPUS COMPLEX WHICH
IS TWO FOLD POSITIVE AND
NEGATIVE AND IS DUE TO THE
BISEXUALITY ORIGINALLY PRESENT
IN CHILDREN," END QUOTE.
TRY TO WRITE A SIMPLE AND
COHERENT NARRATIVE BASED ON
THAT.
EVEN WITH HIS REVISED IDEAS
FREUD IS STILL DRAWING ON HIS
MUCH EARLIER THOUGHT, HE WROTE
OF BISEXUALITY IN A LETTER OF
1899 "I AM ACCUSTOMED MYSELF TO
REGARDING EVERY SEXUAL ACT AS
AN EVENT BETWEEN FOUR
INDIVIDUALS," END QUOTE.
UM, AND IF YOU WANT TO THINK
ABOUT THE NUMBERS THERE,
THERE'S ALSO THAT OTHER FAMOUS
FREUD QUOTATION WHERE HE SAYS
UM, THERE IS ALWAYS SIX PEOPLE
IN A BEDROOM BY WHICH HE HAS IN
MIND A COUPLE AND THE COUPLE'S
TWO SETS OF PARENTS.
BUT THEN IF YOU ADD TO THAT THE
IDEA THAT EVERY ONE OF THOSE
INDIVIDUALS IS SUPPOSED TO BE
BISEXUAL AND FOR FREUD THAT
MEANS BEING TWO DIFFERENT SORT
OF PERSONA THEN YOU KNOW, THE
ROOM GETS VERY CROWDED.

[audience laughing]

Naomi continues UM, JUST ABOUT EVERYONE KNOWS I
THINK THAT FREUD HAD A PROBLEM
CONCEPTUALIZING FEMALE
SEXUALITY.
I OFTEN OPEN DISCUSSION WITH MY
UNDERGRADUATE CLASS BY ASKING
IF THERE WERE ANY WOMEN WHO
WERE NOT OFFENDED AFTER READING
FREUD'S ESSAYS.
IT DOESN'T HELP MATTERS THAT
FREUD INCORPORATES AND
DISMISSES ARGUMENTS BY THE
FEMINIST AS SYSTEMATIC ATTEMPTS
TO REBEL AGAINST FEMININE
INFERIORITY.
LIKE MANY OTHER MUCH MORE
RECENT MEDICAL RESEARCHERS PART
OF THE PROBLEM I ARGUE WAS THAT
HE ALMOST ALWAYS STARTED WITH
BOYS AND THEN HAVING HIS THEORY
IN ADVANCE GIRLS JUST HAD TO
FIT IT SOME WAY OR ANOTHER.
QUOTE "WE HAVE BEEN IN THE
HABIT AS TAKING AS THE SUBJECT
OF OUR INVESTIGATIONS THE MALE
CHILD, THE LITTLE BOY, WITH
LITTLE GIRLS WE HAVE SUPPOSED
THINGS MUST BE SIMILAR THOUGH
IN SOME WAY OR OTHER THEY MUST
NEVERTHELESS BE DIFFERENT."
UH, GREAT SPECIFICITY THERE.

[audience laughing]

Naomi continues UM, IN READING SOME OF FREUD'S
ACCOUNT OF THE ASSUMPTION OF
SEXUAL DIFFERENCE AND I
EMPHASIZE THAT ONE OF THE
INTRIGUING SUGGESTIONS OF
FREUD'S THEORY IS THAT BOYS
BECOME BOYS AND GIRLS BECOME
GIRLS IN THE OEDIPAL MOMENT.
IT IS AMUSING THE EXTENT TO
WHICH FREUD ASSUMES THE LITTLE
BOY'S PART THROUGH
VENTRILOQUIZING HIS POSITION.
FREUD HIMSELF WOULD APPEAR TO
RELIVE THE HORROR OF CASTRATION
IN THIS GOTHIC NARRATIVE.
FREUD RETELLS A MALE CENTRED
STORY IN WHICH FEMALENESS ONLY
FUNCTIONS ON A MASCULINE
SYMPTOM.
THE BOY IS FACED WITH THE
THREAT OF CASTRATION.
HE HAS SEEN THE GIRL, MISREADS
HER AS CASTRATED BOY AND KNOWS
THIS CAN HAPPEN TO HIM AT THE
HANDS OF HIS RIVAL FATHER.
HE THUS CHOOSES HIS BODILY
INTEGRITY AND NARCISSISTIC
INTEREST OVER IMMEDIATE
LIBIDINAL REWARDS.
HE CHOOSES INTENSIFIED
IDENTIFICATION WITH THE FATHER
THEN AND SAVES HIS BODY FROM
FEMINIZATION.
SOME DAY HE REALIZED HE WOULD
GET NOT EXACTLY HIS MOTHER
PERHAPS BUT AN ALMOST ADEQUATE
SUBSTITUTE.
HE CANNOT BE HIS FATHER BUT HE
CAN BECOME HIM OR BECOME LIKE
HIM.
FREUD WILL EVENTUALLY PROPOSE
THAT IF IN BOYS THE FEAR OF
CASTRATION LEADS TO THE
DISILLUSION OF THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX, IN GIRLS THE PROCESS
IS REVERSED.
WHEN SHE DISCOVERS HER
CASTRATED STATE THE GIRL
BECOMES AN OEDIPAL SUBJECT
DESIRING WHAT HER FATHER CAN
GIVE HER SO SHE THINKS.
SHE THUS UNLIKE HER MALE
COUNTERPART NEVER SUCCESSFULLY
MOVES BEYOND THE OEDIPAL
MOMENT.
WHEN IT COMES TO GIRLS FREUD
ADMITS TO SUFFERING A NARRATIVE
DIFFICULTY, A CERTAIN BLOCKAGE.
AND ALTHOUGH THIS DOES NOT
ENTIRELY GET FREUD OFF THE HOOK
HE MAY INDEED BE RIGHT IN
SENSING THAT FEMININITY IN ITS
CULTURALLY LEGITIMATED FORMS IS
MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO ASSUME.
IN THE COURSE OF WRITING THESE
ESSAYS FREUD DOES HOWEVER MOVE
IN THE DIRECTION OF THINKING
DIFFERENCE.
HE DOES IN OTHER WORDS BEGIN TO
THINK OF FEMININITY AS NOT
MERELY THE SAME OR AS
ABSOLUTELY OTHER FROM
MASCULINITY.
FREUD RECOGNIZES BELATEDLY THAT
FOR BOTH BOYS AND GIRLS THE
FIRST LOVE OBJECT IS THE MOTHER
AND CONCEDES THAT HE FAILED TO
THINK THROUGH THE SIGNIFICANCE
OF PRE-OEDIPAL RELATIONS.
QUOTE "WE HAVE LONG GIVEN UP
ANY EXPECTATION OF A NEAT
PARALLELISM BETWEEN MALE AND
FEMALE SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT.
OUR INSIGHT INTO THIS PRE-
OEDIPUS PHASE IN GIRLS COMES TO
US AS A SURPRISE LIKE THE
DISCOVERY IN ANOTHER FIELD OF
THE MINOAN MYCENAEAN
CIVILIZATION BEHIND THE
CIVILIZATION OF GREECE.
THE PRE-OEDIPAL DOMAIN WILL BE
LEFT TO OTHERS TO EXPLORE AND
NOT SURPRISINGLY HAS BEEN OF
PARTICULAR IMPORTANCE TO
FEMINIST CRITICS OF
PSYCHOANALYSIS AND FEMINIST
PSYCHOANALYSTS.
I WOULD LIKE TO SAY SOMETHING
BRIEFLY THEN ABOUT THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX AFTER FREUD.
CONCLUDING WITH SOME THOUGHTS
ABOUT WHAT'S STILL COMPELLING
IN FREUD'S THEORIES.
THE ENGLISH PSYCHOANALYST
MELANIE KLEIN'S WORK REPRESENTS
A SIGNIFICANT DEPARTURE FROM
FREUDIAN ANALYSIS AS SHE WOULD
PUSH THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX BACK
WAY BEFORE FREUD WHO SAW IT
ORIGINATING AT APPROXIMATELY
THREE YEARS OF AGE THAT IS
INSOFAR AS THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX
IS A MOMENT IN TIME.
KLEIN'S WORK WOULD ALSO DEPART
FROM FREUD WITH HER EMPHASIS ON
CHILD ANALYSIS ON PSYCHOSES AS
OPPOSED TO NEUROSES AND ON THE
DEATH DRIVE.
LACAN ON THE OTHER HAND WHO I
ALREADY ALLUDED TO WOULD
REARTICULATE PSYCHOANALYSIS IN
RELATIONSHIP TO STRUCTURALISM
AND TO... PHILOSOPHY.
FOR ALL ITS OTHERNESS LACAN SAW
HIS WORK AS A RETURN TO FREUD
PARTICULARLY WITH ITS EMPHASIS
ON LANGUAGE.
LACAN QUIPS, "I MAY BE
PERMITTED A LAUGH IF THESE
REMARKS ARE ACCUSED OF TURNING
THE MEAN -- THE MEANING OF
FREUD'S WORK AWAY FROM THE
BIOLOGICAL BASIS HE WOULD HAVE
WISHED FOR IT TOWARDS THE
CULTURAL REFERENCES FOR WHICH
IT IS SHOT THROUGH," END QUOTE.
FOR AS ANYBODY KNOWS WHO HAS
READ "THE INTERPRETATION OF
DREAMS," FREUD'S WORK IS A
CRUCIAL FORERUNNER TO WHAT WE
THINK OF IS CONTEMPORARY
LITERARY CRITICISM.
A CLOSE AND CAREFUL ATTENTION
TO THE LOGIC OF THE SIGNIFIER.
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO
REARTICULATE THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX WITH AN EMPHASIS ON
LANGUAGE.
FOR LACAN THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX
IS AN ALLEGORY FOR THE
SUBJECT'S INITIATION INTO THE
SYMBOLIC ORDER WHICH IS THE
REALM OF LANGUAGE, THE LAW,
LACK AND SEXUAL DIFFERENCE.
FOR LACAN ASSUMING ONE'S SEX IS
FUNDAMENTAL TO ASSUMING ONE'S
POSITION IN THE ENTIRE OF FIELD
OF HUMAN RELATIONS WHICH IS
STRUCTURED LIKE A LANGUAGE.
TO PUT IT SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY,
FOR LACAN THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX
IS NOT SIMPLY A CONTENT, THE
TRUTH OF WHAT WE ALL DESIRE AND
I RETURN HERE TO THE QUESTION
OF SIMPLICITY OR COMPLEXITY OF
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX INSTEAD IT
IS A STRUCTURE OR A COMPLEX,
THE STRUCTURE OF THREE TERMS AS
OPPOSED TO TWO.
THE LACK AS OPPOSED TO THE
IMAGINARY FULLNESS OF THE
MIRROR NARCISSISM.
WITH THE SYMBOLIC ORDER ONE
ENCOUNTERS THE SPACE OR LACK OR
GAP IN WHICH LANGUAGE EMERGES.
THE WORD MAMA NOT MAMA HERSELF.
FOR LACAN DESIRE AND THE LAW
ARE INTRICATELY RELATED.
THE LAW OF THE FATHER WILL
PROHIBITED WHAT ONE COULD NOT
HAVE HAD ANYWAY, ALL COMPLETE
SATISFACTION AND PLEASURE.
AS FOR THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX'S
RELATIONSHIP WITH FEMINISM ONE
MIGHT EXPECT ONLY RESISTANCE.
FREUD AFTER ALL WAS DEFINITIVE
ON THE UNIVERSAL SIGNIFICANCE
OF THE CASTRATION COMPLEX.
QUOTE, FROM FREUD, "ONE HEARS
OF ANALYSTS WHO BOAST THAT
THOUGH THEY HAVE WORKED FOR
DOZENS OF YEARS, THEY HAVE
NEVER FOUND A SIGN OF THE
EXISTENCE OF THE CASTRATION
COMPLEX.
WE MUST BOW OUR HEADS IN
RECOGNITION OF THE GREATNESS OF
THIS ACHIEVEMENT EVEN THOUGH IT
IS ONLY A NEGATIVE ONE, A PIECE
OF VIRTUOSITY IN THE ART OF
OVERLOOKING AND MISTAKING," END
QUOTE.
AND INDEED SOME FEMINISTS AND
FEMINISMS HAVE IDENTIFIED FREUD
AS AN ENEMY WHILE OTHERS HAVE
STRIVED TO TELL DIFFERENT
STORIES OF PSYCHOSOCIAL
DEVELOPMENT.
BUT A MORE SURPRISING RESPONSE
HAS PERHAPS BEEN THE FEMINIST
CLAIM THAT FREUD GOT IT EXACTLY
RIGHT.
IN THE 1970s FOR EXAMPLE, BOTH
JULIET MITCHELL IN HER LANDMARK
PSYCHOANALYSIS IN FEMINISM AND
GAIL REUBEN IN AN INFLUENTIAL
ESSAY, "THE TRAFFIC IN WOMEN."
IDENTIFIED FREUD'S OEDIPUS
COMPLEX AS CRUCIAL FOR
UNDERSTANDING GENDER AND
SEXUALITY IN A MALE CENTRED
CULTURE.
REUBEN WOULD REFER TO
PSYCHOANALYSIS AS A FEMINIST
THEORY... AND MITCHELL WOULD
ARGUE THAT QUOTE,
"PSYCHOANALYSIS IS NOT A
RECOMMENDATION FOR A
PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY BUT AN
ANALYSIS OF ONE.
IF WE ARE INTERESTED IN
UNDERSTANDING AND CHALLENGING
THE OPPRESSION OF WOMEN WE
CANNOT AFFORD TO NEGLECT IT,"
END QUOTE.
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX DOES FAVOUR
THE PRODUCTION OF MASCULINITY
SHE ARGUES AND IT IS ALL TOO
EASY AND A MISTAKE TO SEARCH
FOR A COMPLIMENTARY MYTH FOR
WOMEN.
"IT IS A MAN'S WORLD INTO WHICH
A WOMAN ENTERS," SHE WRITES,
COMPLEMENTARITY OR PARALLELISM
ARE OUT OF THE QUESTION.
THE ANTHROPOLOGIST AND FATHER
OF STRUCTURALISM CLAUDE LEVY
STRAUSS SUGGESTS THAT FREUD'S
SUPPOSED THEORY OF THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX WAS REALLY JUST ANOTHER
RETELLING OF THE MYTH.
AND THIS ISN'T A GESTURE OF
DERISION.
IN FACT, IT ALIGNS FREUD WITH
SOPHOCLES ALSO A RE-TELLER OF
THE MYTH AND NOT INCIDENTALLY
ALLOWS LEVY STRAUSS TO FIT
FREUD INTO HIS, LEVY STRAUSS'
MASTER NARRATIVE RESTRUCTURE.
MY SENSE ON THE OTHER HAND IS
THAT THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX IS
MOST SUGGESTIVE IN NAMING A
RANGE OF QUESTIONS, SOME OF
WHICH I TRIED TO GESTURE TOWARD
IN THIS PREVOCALIC AND PERHAPS
THIS IS WHAT ALL MYTHS DO.
EVEN IF WE ALSO NEED TO ASK
OURSELVES WHETHER THE FAMILIAR
OEDIPAL STRUCTURE IS ALSO AT
RISK OF SHUTTING DOWN ON THE
POSSIBLE ANSWERS WE MIGHT
GENERATE.
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX ASKS US TO
ASK HOW FUTURE GENERATIONS ARE
PRODUCED?
HOW DO WE COME PSYCHOLOGICALLY
TO ACCEPT SUBSTITUTION AND
LOSS?
THE PROBLEM THEN IS NOT THAT
CHILDREN HAVE PASSIONATE
FEELINGS FOR THEIR PARENTS BUT
RATHER HOW THEY EVER GET OVER
THEM.
HOW ARE SEX AND GENDER
PRODUCED?
WHO AM I?
WHERE DO I COME FROM?
WHOM DO I DESIRE AND WHY?
CAN OEDIPAL CONFIGURATIONS HELP
US TO READ COMPLEX AND
POLITICALLY CHARGED RELATIONS.
WHAT CONFIGURATIONS ANSWER BACK
TO OR COMPLICATE THE OEDIPUS
COMPLEX.
I WOULD ALSO EMPHASIZE THE
OEDIPAL SIGNIFICANCE OF
ANALYTIC PROCESS NOT JUST
CONTENT.
OEDIPUS RAISES CRUCIAL
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TEMPORAL
PREDICAMENT OF THE SUBJECT.
OEDIPUS AS ONE CRITIC HAS
ARGUED MAY ACTUALLY HAVE BEEN
THE ONLY PERSON IN HISTORY NOT
TO HAVE SUFFERED FROM AN
OEDIPUS COMPLEX.

[audience laughing]

Naomi continues QUOTE, "THE ONE PERSON WHO
ACTUALLY ENACTS PATRICIDE AND
INCEST COMPLETELY MISSES THE
EXPERIENCE UNTIL AFTER THE
FACT," END QUOTE.
SOME HISTORIANS OF
PSYCHOANALYSIS DATE ITS ORIGIN
TO FREUD'S CONCEPTUALIZATION OF
THE OEDIPUS COMPLEX IN
INFANTILE SEXUALITY.
THE INNOCENT VICTORIAN CHILD
WAS NO MORE.
PRIOR TO THAT FREUD ENTERTAINED
WHAT HAS BECOME KNOWN AS THE
SEDUCTION THEORY IN WHICH
SEXUALITY INVADED THE
ORIGINALLY INNOCENT SUBJECT
FROM THE OUTSIDE AS TRAUMA.
REVISITING THE ORIGINS OF
PSYCHOANALYSIS HAS NOT
SURPRISINGLY LED TO
CONTROVERSY.
FREUD SOME HOLD TURNED AWAY
FROM THE SEXUAL TRAUMAS THAT
HIS PATIENTS NARRATED IN FAVOUR
OF THEORY OF FANTASY AND THE
OEDIPUS COMPLEX.
BUT WHAT THIS ACCOUNT MISSES IS
THAT FOR FREUD, SEXUALITY WAS
NEVER SIMPLE.
EVEN AS THE NEW EMPHASIS ON
FANTASY MARKED A DIFFERENCE IN
FREUD'S THOUGHT, FREUD ALWAYS
INSISTED ON TWO MOMENTS, AN
EARLIER SCENE OF SOME SEXUAL
CONTENT AND A LATER SCENE IN
WHICH THE EARLIER ONE TAKES ON
A NEW SIGNIFICANCE OR TAKES ON
SIGNIFICANCE PERHAPS FOR THE
FIRST TIME.
IN OTHER WORDS ASSUMING ONE'S
PAST IS NEVER SEPARABLE FROM
THE QUESTIONS SEXUALITY POSTS
TO EACH SUBJECT.
FREUD'S UNIVERSALIZATION OF
OEDIPUS THEN SUGGESTS THAT
MISRECOGNITION IS FUNDAMENTAL
TO THE SUBJECT.
IT IS OFTEN IN ATTEMPTS TO
AVOID OUR SUPPOSED FATE THAT WE
WALK RIGHT INTO IT.
IT IS ONLY THEN IN QUASI-
FICTIONALIZED OR DRAMATIZED
NARRATIVES, WRITING AN
AUTOBIOGRAPHY, EXPERIENCING A
TRANSFERENCE NEUROSIS THAT WE
EVER BELATEDLY GRASP OURSELVES.
THANK YOU.

[Applause]

Watch: Naomi Morgenstern on Oedipus Complex Made Simple