However far back we go mythology has been interpreted. According to Plato in the Phaedrus, the Sophists created the philosophy of suspicion when they started to practise disbelief and to bring the narratives back down to earth. To say that Orythia was carried off by Boreas means simply that a woman died after being blown off a cliff by the north wind. What about centaurs, the Chimaera, the Gorgon, Pegasus and the other legendary monsters? Painstaking analysis could also ‘set them straight’. The Stoics were subsequently to translate the whole of Greek polytheism into metaphysical terms relating to matter, form and natural phenomena. Plutarch, too, was to create a theory of symbolic overdetermination which Lévi-Strauss has praised, claiming that Plutarch understood the central principle of structuralism in recognising that a multiplicity of codes were interwoven in myth. Thus, early in the western tradition, myth became a narrative that could be understood only by going beyond its literal meaning. A refusal to take this step meant sticking to popular opinion, allowing oneself to be swayed by unquestioning beliefs.
The history of the treatment of myth in European philosophy and social science is a history of theories of interpretation, each positing a different yet coherent system of symbolic decoding: from Frazer to Ricoeur, from Max Müller to structuralism, and from the Cambridge historians of religion to René Girard. Here I am reiterating what everyone knows in order to establish from the outset the legitimacy of psychoanalytic interpretation as one going beyond the literal. When psychoanalysis turns towards mythology, using an interpretative technique that deciphers, decodes and reduces the phenomenon of narrative to a noumenon whose nature it claims to understand, no one should challenge the hermeneutic principle in the approach. It is surely the very opposite, not seeking to go beyond the living freshness of the story, that would be strange. A work that probably owes its success to such an unusual approach is Robert Calasso’s Marriage of