Athens in Paris: Ancient Greece and the Political in Postwar French Thought

By Miriam Leonard | Go to book overview
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Oedipus and the Political Subject

OEDIPUS AND THE SUBJECT OF PHILOSOPHY

It is often thought that Oedipus is an easy subject to deal with,
something perfectly obvious, a ‘given’ that is there from the very
beginning. But that is not so at all.

Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus

How not to think of Oedipus as a ‘given’? Can there be any more paradigmatic figure than Oedipus? ‘From the very beginning’ have we not been encouraged in precisely the conviction Deleuze and Guattari ask us to reject?

Taking yours as an example, your fate Oedipus (Soph. OT 1193–4)1

So sing the chorus of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. And taking his example from Sophocles, Freud propelled Oedipus into the twentieth century and created the ‘age of Oedipal man’.2 But before Freud, ‘before becoming the figure of desire and science, Oedipus’, affirms Lacoue-Labarthe, ‘was already a figure…. Oedipus was a figure in philosophy, and the figure of philosophy’.3 Despite Oedipus’ ancient progeny, despite Sophocles, despite Aristotle, Lacoue-Labarthe goes on, ‘Truth to tell, and although this occurred before the sudden rise of psychoanalysis, Oedipus or the name “Oedipus” entered philosophy somewhat late in date. So late in fact, that his entrance coincided with the moment when

1 Translations are from Jebb.

2 Rudnytsky (1987), 97.

3 Lacoue-Labarthe (2003), 8.

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