Friday, September 12, 2008

incest

Let's talk about Freud Oedipus!


34 comments:

michelle scandurro said...

Your picture didn't work, Michelle. I'm afraid of the picture, though.

Anway, it seems incest is becoming a theme in this course. :)

puddlewonderful said...

That is because it is an important part of our early psychological development, as I'm sure Herr Freud has told you.

puddlewonderful said...

Does it work now?! It's so awesome. It's from Columbia's parody paper, The Fed.

Mark said...

yay columbia!

Stephanie said...

Hahaha, that is awesome!
(Hello, all of you Humanities people!)

Mr. Plainview said...

I will find something much more insightful to say later, but for now...
Is incest perhaps some slanted, subconscious way of pursuing an ideal form? I know it sounds odd, but think about it. Doesn't everyone have the least little teeny feeling of "I'm better than you are!"? Now what could be better than a double shot of the same awesome genes??? Believe me, I never intend to explore such activities; I'm just keeping the blog rolling.

El Paco said...

sure you are, Brandon...sure you are

Aaron Nussdorf said...

Mr. Plainview, i must state that incest, coming from Oedipus, is an "abomination;" this is not only repeaated in the play but also in the bible. Also, Mr Plainview; incest carries with it bad sideeffects, like hereditary diseases, birth-defects, and, importantly, mental illness.

Manal said...

Did the Greeks believe in predestination? It seemed to me as i was reading that the king got cursed and since he did the curse had to take place. The king decided not to have children but Oedipus is born nonetheless. It just looked to me that no matter how hard they tried, all their fates were determined and therefore had to be completed in that particular way.

puddlewonderful said...

Brandon- You are taking your Campbell elitism a bit far.

Manal- In the preface to the play some critic (whoever wrote it) discusses the theme of predestination. The ancients did indeed believe in fate and its overwhelming power, but the critic offers an argument against predestination that he himself compares to Milton's in Paradise Lost. In Milton's epic, God knows that Adam and Eve will fall, but his knowledge does not make them fall. Likewise said critic argues that it is Oedipus who brings this fate upon himself, not the prophecy. I kind of get it, but I admit it seems to have a lot of holes... I guess what Milton/the preface author means is that the future happens as we make it happen, and to know what we'll do doesn't make us do it-- we make us do it.

Dean Elazab said...

I think brandon is right in a sense. Royal families may think that only themselves are worthy of mating to keep the lineage strong and what not

puddlewonderful said...

I don't think that's the point in Oedipus, or in a lot of literature. I know that later, I guess in the general time of the Renaissance or so, royal families would intermarry cousins and a lot of inbreeding would occur. But I would argue that incest, especially between immediate relations (siblings and siblings, parents and children), is an essential human taboo that spans across generations and cultures. I think it is a deep, dark fear that if we are not born with, we learn early on (this idea is a bit Freudian... He of course would say that we love our mothers or fathers, and then move on from this love when we learn of the deep and strict taboo of incest).

Looking beyond the Oedipus myth, we see it again in the some versions of the tale of King Arthur. Arthur sleeps with his half-sister Morgause and the product of that union is Mordred. When it is prophesied that a child born on May Day will be Arthur's undoing, the King orders all children born on said day drowned. However, Mordred survives and eventually slays his father in war. This story reiterates the essential, transcultural taboo of incest between immediate relations.

Mr. Plainview said...

Elitism?! Did I ever mention the Campbell name? No. And Aaron, I wasn't speaking specifically about Oedipus, but incest in a very general way. But, yes, incest is certainly not the best way to produce healthy offspring.

tmichals said...

I think the incest really spices things up... takes us away from our realities. And brandon - when I was reading your comment, it said "doesn't everyone have the least tiny feeling..." and I totally thought you were going to say something about how we all secretly want to commit incest. I'm really glad that wasn't what it actually said


P.S. Joel and I have a present for the classroom!

Caroline said...

Expanding on Brandon's comment, didn't some royal families marry within their extended family to maintain power?

stephen said...

I think that the incest quality of the story is interesting because Oedipus is so repulsed by the fact that he has had relations within his family, yet as caroline said,people in intiquity married for status, so incest could have been viewed as a way of retaining power.

El Paco said...

yeah, but not with your own mother.

JP said...

I'm not sure if I buy Freud's argument that we all have incestuous urges for our parents as children. It sounds like one of those things he just made up. (Freud, like the Greeks, was brilliant but made lots of stuff up.)

In Oedipus' case, he didn't even know it was his mother, so I don't think those supposed childhood desires apply.

I'm really not sure if there are any great lessons or themes to learn from Oedipus. I think it's an entertaining story, but I can't see any meaningful lesson or message in it. Maybe something about fate being inescapable, but I think that's a really weak lesson.

joel derby said...

Well, I feel like there may be a message about the danger of assumption. Oedipus showed his ignorance and stupidity by trying to kill his brother-in-law/uncle Creon. He blamed Creon for Laius's death because of hearsay even though he was the real killer.

puddlewonderful said...

I felt that Sophocles was making a powerful statement about human ignorance. Oedipus trusted in his rational faculties and his pristine mind, he felt himself smart and wise enough to take on any problem with logic alone. Right before his downfall, he made bold statements about his own powers of reasoning. But he fails because of his ignorance-- an ignorance for which there could be no help, an inescapable lack of foresight. Sophocles places this is in the guise of fate, but I think the real message is that there are some things we will simply never know-- and if we decide those are unimportant and assume ourselves to be all-knowing and all-wise, we, too, will suffer from our ignorance and our ignorance of our ignorance.

Joel makes another point. Oedipus jumps to conclusions-- he trusts again in the power of his mind and his reasoning and misassumes Creon to be disloyal. One might even see that as a precursor, or a foreshadowing of his greater ignorance and his greater fall.

Dean Elazab said...

John is sort of right. I don't believe the point of the story was the incest, but the point was Oedipus. He was quick to accuse Creon and wanted nothing to do with incest. He also thought way too highly of himself and thought he was superior to the gods. I think the incest was his predestined punishment for hubris.

puddlewonderful said...

The incest, to me, is only a fun little Freudian detail.

But to add what Freud felt about this play: yes, Oedipus didn't know that he was sleeping with his mum. But to Freud, it still represented one of our deepest fears-- that we've not grown out of our desire for our mothers and hatred/envy of our fathers. It expresses the human perception of what disaster would befall if we were to do such taboo things; because Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother, Apollo sends a plague to Thebes. The gods punish such terrible crimes, and so misfortune haunts the city.

I don't think incest is the point of the play and I don't think Siggy thought it was either. Rather Freud posited that, along with the more conscious and deliberate themes Sophocles addressed, he allowed some deep fear from his id to manifest itself in his masterpiece-- a deep fear we all possess.

Caroline said...

Wouldn't Freud consider Oedipus' mother the woman who raised him? because although Jocasta is obviously his biological mother, Oedipus never knows he is adopted, so at a young age (or at any age actually), how could he subconsciously desire Jocasta?

tmichals said...

That's a very brilliant point Caroline. I feel bad for poor Oedipus when it comes to the whole incest thing... he didn't know it was his mother. Leave him alone!

JP said...

Caroline -

I think Michelle means that Sophocles subconsciously wrote one of his own personal id fears - having sex with his mom - into the play. She wasn't talking about Oedipus' fears, since obviously he can't fear what he doesn't even know about.

I'm not sure if I buy that, though, because I'm not sure if I buy Freud's whole argument that we all subconsciously want or wanted to have sex with our parents before we even knew what sex was. That's messed up, man. Who would ever say that?

puddlewonderful said...

Thanks, John. That is what I meant.

Taylor, he brought it upon himself... He was too prideful; he thought his own rationalism could surpass the power of the gods, and that his mind was above any other power.

That said, it's good that you feel bad for Oedipus-- that's the point of a tragedy. Sophocles would be proud, and Aristotle would feel his thesis redeemed.

I guess I kinda feel bad for him too...

ndepass said...

i definitely think think that incest makes the play fit the characteristics of a tragedy in Aristotle description, because it makes the person watching the play feel pity and fear which is the point of a tragedy. However, i think that it is hard for most people to relate to incest, unless you believe with Freud's way of thinking.

Caroline said...

I don't really pity Oedipus because he is continually prideful and arrogant- from killing all the men traveling with the king, to boldly and irrationally accusing Creon. He doesn't heed the warnings because he thinks he has outsmarted the gods.

Aaron Nussdorf said...

ahhh, but that's just it! i can see how he would feel: he's totally in denial, and he is hubris (if that's how the word is used). he IS smart and powerful and doesnt want to admit that he is completely out of control. Oedipus is so human, more than we'd like to admit.

Ehren said...

I think if there was a lesson in Oedipus it was supposed to be a lesson in modesty. Oedipus seemed very arrogant, especially in his bombastic speech. He was quick to blame others and he refused to entertain any thoughts of being the culprit of the king's murder.

bballinsupasta said...

i def agree with ehren...there really was no reason for him to blame creon for stabbing him in the back because creon didn't do anything even remotely suspicious. i don't think that the author wrote in his subconscious urges to sleep with his mother. i think that he just wanted oedipus to do something really really nasty to try to invoke a cathartic reaction

Mr. Plainview said...

But Creon did do something rather suspicious, didn't he? He told Oedipus to see the prophet. The prophet accused Oedipus. How was Oedipus to know Creon was completely innocent.

Margaret said...

I don't like Oedipus or Freud. They're both overrated. Freud was interesting to read when I was younger, so were the classics, but when it comes down to it, it was just the reputation that attracted me. It's still interesting, but I don't think they should be given the weight it is in our class.

I've heard that most of Freud's theories have been debunked, though I don't have evidence to support that. I still don't like that we talk about him every day. I suppose it's cool to be able to refer to him, just like it's cool to allude to Plato or Socrates.

Margaret said...

But on the topic of incest, I'm pretty sure it must be programmed in our brains that incest does not work. That is not the best way to create healthy babies.

In the case of royal families, Michelle said that incest between members of immediate family members was still taboo.