The Oedipus Problem Now
One of Freud’s main legacies and one of the reasons that he is accused of sexism and of phallocentrism, the Oedipus complex has a bad rep these days. At the same time, it is the indispensable entry point for any new attempt to reconceptualize gender, sexuality, and kinship as well as the psyche and subjectivity from feminist and queer perspectives. With all its Freudian and post-Freudian attachments, the myth of Oedipus codified by Sophocles in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus continues to be used as an allegory of the human condition and as a reflection of the clash between the human and the non-human agency of what we call “nature”—in these times, specifically, the virus. In this class, we will start by considering a number of epiphanies of Oedipus in popular culture. We will then focus on a play by queer Chicano performance artist Luis Alfaro, Oedipus el Rey (2017), which is set in contemporary Los Angeles. This play will provide us with the framing for reconnecting with the two plays of Sophocles and for understanding the uses of Oedipus in psychoanalysis and postmodern philosophy (including feminism, queer and trans theory, and ecocriticism), as well as in modern art and film.