Historians often refer to the emergence of Zionism as an "Oedipal Revolution."
Hence, the secular son's rebellion against his orthodox father is understood as the thrust that triggered the modern Jewish revolution. Alan Mintz aptly described the inter-generational rift between fathers and sons at the turn of the 20th century as a tragic yet inevitable consequence of modernity, underscoring the psychological difficulties and political dilemmas that haunted the sons who were "banished form their father's table."
This seminar will focus on the (highly androcentric) 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.
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.
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 political implications? What role is assigned to women in a culture which defines itself as "oedipal"? Is there a foundational similarity between the Oedipus myth and the biblical story of the binding of Isaac? And how are these competing narratives employed in Israeli culture? How did this figure evolve over the course of the 20th century and what are its political ramifications in different periods and for successive literary generations? We will lay a theoretical foundation for our discussion by reading Sophocles' Oedipus Rex, and Kafka's "Letter to his Father," with commentary by Freud, Girard, 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.