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Tragedy and Otherness

Sophocles, Shakespeare, Psychoanalysis

Nicholas Ray

This book presents a new account of the complex relationship between psychoanalytic theory and the key tragic dramas by Sophocles and Shakespeare in which it has often sought exemplars and prototypes. Examining the close historical and theoretical connections between Freud’s interpretative appeal to tragic drama and his professed abandonment of the ‘seduction’ hypothesis in 1897, the author explores the ways in which otherness has subsequently been simplified out of both psychoanalytic theory and the dramatic texts it endeavours to comprehend. Drawing on Jean Laplanche’s critical reformulation of the seduction theory, the book offers close rereadings of Oedipus Tyrannus, Julius Caesar and Hamlet in order to outline an approach to tragedy which takes account of the constitutive priority of the other in the itinerary of the tragic subject. By reopening the theme of seduction in relation to these key literary dramas, the book aims to generate a better understanding both of the function which psychoanalysis has called upon tragedy to perform, and the radical modes of otherness within tragedy for which psychoanalysis has hitherto remained unable to account.
Contents: The evolution of Freudian metapsychology and its relation to tragic drama – Parricide and subjectivity in Greek and Shakespearean tragedy – Concepts and stagings of trauma and transgenerational haunting – Alterity in the context of classical Greek and early-modern European culture – Dramatic and psychoanalytic configurations of mourning, repetition and identification – Jean Laplanche and the movement from a restricted to a general theory of seduction – Tragedies: Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Hamlet.