Jewish Studies mini-Seminar

Jewish Studies mini-Seminar

Revisiting Oedipus: The Oedipal Figure in Literary Theory and Modern Hebrew Literature
Course Number: 
298 (Combined with JS 200)
Course Type or Level: 
Michael Gluzman
4104 Dwinelle

Although Freud’s “invention” of the Oedipus complex transpired in a particular cultural and historical setting, it rapidly became a hermeneutic bedrock, a cross-cultural and trans-historical paradigm which illuminates texts as remote from one another as Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Kafka’s Letter to His Father. Freud first conceptualized the Oedipus complex in 1897 while he was immersed in his self-analysis and he continued to redefine its modalities throughout his career. Consequent developments in psychoanalysis – and in critical theory at large – attempted to account for the centrality of the oedipal figure, ascribing it to the social decline of the paternal imago.

This seminar will focus on the oedipal figure in literary theory and explore its prominence in modern Hebrew literature. Freud’s preoccupation with the Oedipus complex at the turn of the century coincided with the emergence of a powerful oedipal narrative in modern Hebrew culture. This confluence provides a fascinating backdrop to the “invention” of the Oedipus complex. We will read a variety of literary texts which rework the oedipal figure from the late 19th century to the 1980s and beyond. Various theoretical formulations of the Oedipus complex will be discussed alongside literary works which implicitly theorize the oedipal question. Why is this figure so central in Hebrew literature and what are its implications for issues such as gender and nationalism? How did this figure evolve over the course of the 20 th century and what are its political ramifications? We will lay a theoretical foundation for our discussion by reading Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Kafka’s Letter to hisFather,” with respective commentary by Freud, Lacan and Deleuze and Guattari. Thereafter, we will focus on a selection of Hebrew works of prose fiction which are available in English translation. Students working in Hebrew will be provided with the texts in the original. Students working in languages other than Hebrew will contribute examples of the figure of the oedipal in “their” literature to the seminar readings.

Readings include:
Literary Texts:
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
Shakespeare, Hamlet
Kafka, “Letter to His Father”
M.Z. Feierberg, “Wither”
H. N. Bialik, “Aftergrowth”
SH. Y. Agnon, “Hill of Sand”
Dvora Baron, “Beginning,” “The First Day,” “Sister”
Amos Oz, “Way of the Wind”
David Grossman, “Runner”

Critical Texts:
Freud, “The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex”; “Femininity,”
Karen Horney, The Flight from Womanhood (excerpt)
Clause Levi-Strauss, “The Structural Analysis of Myth”
Daniel Boyarin, “Freud’s Baby, Fliess’s Baby”
Deleuze and Guattari, “An Exaggerated Oedipus”
Jacques Lacan, “Desire and the Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet”
Jessica Benjamin, “Father and Daughter, Identification with Difference”
Judith Butler. Antigone’s Claim (excerpt)

Michael Gluzman is the head of the Laura Schwartz Kipp Center for Hebrew
Literature and Culture at Tel Aviv University. Among his publications are The
Politics of Canonicity: Lines of Resistance in Modernist Hebrew Poetry (Stanford
2004), The Zionist Body: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Hebrew Literature
(Hebrew, 2007) and The Poetry of the Drowned: The Melancholia of Sovereignty in
Hebrew Poetry of the 1950s and 1960s (Hebrew, forthcoming in 2017). He is the
founding co-editor of Ot: A Journal of Hebrew Literature and Theory.