Lacan and Girard: sex and non-violence

This paper brings together the work of Jacques Lacan, the great Christianizer of psychoanalysis, and René Girard, the speculative anthropologist whose study of sacrifice and myth led not only to his rejection of Freud and Lacan but a dramatic conversion to Catholicism and growing conviction as to the revelatory power of the Gospels to expose the myth upon which psychoanalysis is built. Despite their antipathy I bring a psychoanalytic perspective to bear on Girard’s theory, interrogating the modalities of sacrifice according Lacan’s three registers of the psyche: the imaginary, symbolic, and real. I then explore Girard’s distinction between myth and Gospel in light of Lacan’s claim regarding the impossibility of the sexual relation. I argue that the difference between sacrifice in the register of the symbolic, and sacrifice in the register of the real not only restages the impossibility of the sexual relation, it conforms to Girard’s distinction between myth and Gospel. In this way I pave the way for a more mutual reading of their enterprises, and theology and psychoanalysis more generally.

Oedipus, with or without his “Complex”, the Myth of the Male Truth

The story of Oedipus has been used throughout the ages in a variety of ways, by both artists and scholars. In this paper, the author highlights the host of aspects and motives which have turned this story into a myth, a tragedy and a very popular literary model in Western cultural history. As a myth, it can be read horizontally or vertically, synchronically or diachronically, and on the basis of either a masculine or a feminine imagination. It is argued that when it is read as just proof of the Oedipus complex, as Freud did, many equally important aspects are ignored. But whatever the interpretation we give to the story of Oedipus, it remains a construction told by men for men, a myth of male truth.

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“Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” The fairy tale on the couch

Ever since its very beginning, psychoanalysis has allowed itself to be inspired by knowledge supposedly present in (pre)literary genres like myths and fairy tales. However, with time, the tables were turned and its theories were systematically and rigorously applied to every story to hand, including the fairy tale. After Freud set an example in 1913 with two of his articles, Freudians and Jungians alike became convinced they could use psychoanalytic theory to penetrate the true heart of the tale. For a long time, the elaborate interpretations made by Bruno Bettelheim and Marie-Louize Von Franz were quite influential. But although their orthodox methods have indeed made a considerable contribution to our understanding of the fairy tale, they are nonetheless flawed on various levels. Therefore, it may be time to search for new ways to approach the fairy tale from a psychoanalytic perspective, for instance, in collaboration with socio-historicism or indeed by a purposeful exploration of Lacanian theory.

Cain and Abel: The Prodigal Sons of Psychoanalysis?

It is widely known that Freud gives Oedipus a central place in both his psychoanalytic theory and praxis. Freud introduces the Oedipus myth as the crucial key for understanding the tragedy of human life. One of the most problematic issues innate to the human condition is aggression. This paper argues: (1) that Freud’s insights into human aggression can at the very least be viewed as one-sided and problematic; and (2) that the heuristic potential of the Oedipus myth, correspondingly, is limited. It considers how the Hungarian psychiatrist and analyst, Lipót Szondi, tries to bridge this gap using the myth of Cain and Abel. The aim of this paper is to explore how Szondi’s interpretation of this myth offers a much more subtle approach to human aggression. Szondi’s alternative and distinctive look at aggressive phenomena offers an exciting and fruitful addition to Freud’s interpretation as exclusively referring to sadism and/or the death drive. This contribution wants to highlight Szondi’s amendment to Freud’s Oedipus and aims to show that psychoanalysis can benefit from taking into account the mythical figures of Cain and Abel as its ‘prodigal sons’.

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