Oedipal Conflict, Platonic
Love: Centrifugal Forces in
University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
I read Sophocles before I read Freud, and the Iliad of Homer before I read either. I have been writing about the universal messages in Greek tragedies for over 10 years ( Datan, 1974, 1980, 1982, 1985). Thus it came naturally to me to consider for this conference an examination of the entire canon of Greek tragedy out of which Freud ( 1966) selected the tragedy of Oedipus and to ask the question, "Who does what, and with which, and to whom?" of this entire network of mythical intergenerational relations. I might then enquire, "What makes Oedipus different from every other tragic hero?" And I already had the answer to that: Of all the protagonists in Greek tragedy, only Oedipus is innocent. He must have caught Freud's eye for some other reason--and I thought I had a very good idea what that reason was. I had some confidence that Freud had read the Poetics of Aristotle and that he would have been influenced, consciously or not, by Aristotle's vision of the tragic hero, the man who is basically decent but meets his doom through a fatal flaw. The example Aristotle chose, as I remember it, was Oedipus. Thus I expected to show with relative ease a serious cause of tunnel vision in Freud and to lay the blame at the feet of Aristotle. It only remained to set the stage, and then to allow the thesis to declare and defend itself.
It was my conviction that the tragic flaw in Oedipus was apparent only to a masculine eye: Oedipus fled from the prophecy which foretold that he would murder his father, and fate, in the form of coincidence, caused him to fulfill