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Reflections in a Serpent's EyeThebes in Ovid's Metamorphoses$
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Micaela Janan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556922

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556922.001.0001

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‘Happy Birthday, Romulus’

(p.1) 1 Introduction
Reflections in a Serpent's Eye

Micaela Janan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter introduces the book's methodology, centred upon the Law of the Father. For Lacan, the Father is an abstract principle of legislative, and punitive power, rather than a biological function. The Father not only informs the Law—the basis of the ordered human community, like Thebes—but more abstractly ‘polices’ the conceptual boundaries that are the essence of the Symbolic (Lacan's term for the cultural symbolization systems whose categories underlie the linguistic and social order). One achieves identity as an individual, as a citizen, as a collective—even as Man or Woman—in relation to the Father. Each identity depends upon an implied binary (self/other; Theban/non‐Theban; Man/Woman); the stability of that defining boundary rests in the paternal metaphor. But Ovid's Thebes dramatizes the baleful influence of a malevolent, perverse Father‐principle constantly destabilizing the distinction between ‘reality’ and ‘fantasy’—between the authorizing narrative of the existing (Augustan) political order, claimed as truth, and its disavowed nightmare double, disclosed in the truth's internal contradictions.

Keywords:   Lacan, Freud, Totem and Taboo, Thebes, Ovid, Metamorphoses, Augustus, Father of Enjoyment, Symbolic

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