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Freudian MythologiesGreek Tragedy and Modern Identities$
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Rachel Bowlby

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199566228

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199566228.001.0001

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The Cronus Complex: Psychoanalytic Myths of the Future for Boys and Girls

The Cronus Complex: Psychoanalytic Myths of the Future for Boys and Girls

(p.146) 6 The Cronus Complex: Psychoanalytic Myths of the Future for Boys and Girls
Freudian Mythologies


Oxford University Press

This chapter uses the myth of Cronus — Zeus's father — to think about the genealogies through which Freud imagines possible futures for male and female subjects. Lying behind the phrase ‘castration complex’ is a story as potent in its way as the Oedipus story that subtends the Oedipus complex; but Cronus — who castrated his own father — surfaces only rarely in Freud's writing (or in popular mythological knowledge). Cronus is associated with a much more brutal, pre-human (pre-Oedipal) phase of mythic history, before the arrival of the Olympian gods. Freud's own mythology in effect involves a boy's passage, via the Oedipus and castration complexes, from primitive to civilized subjectivity. Women, on the other hand, are stuck in a pre-civilized world (where they are already ‘castrated’ and find a subjective future only in having a (boy) baby can represent what they must imagine they have been deprived of.

Keywords:   Cronus, castration complex, Oedipus complex, sexual difference, Greek myth

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