THE ROAD TO DAULIS: Psychoanalysis, Psychology, and Classical Mythology by Robert Eisner

THE ROAD TO DAULIS: Psychoanalysis, Psychology, and Classical Mythology

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A brilliant investigation of psychoanalytic misuse of myth. A critique of Freud's famed use of the Oedipus myth forms the opening salvo of Eisner's basic argument: that psychoanalysis has, with the best of intentions, misread mythology more often than not. Eisner's dispute is not with Freudian psychology per se; he accepts, with reservations, the content of what Freud called the Oedipus complex. Rather, his aim is to preserve the pristine value of myth, in danger of suffocation from psychoanalytic co-options. Thus he slates that Freud mistakenly grafted theories legitimately arrived at from psychoanalysis on to the Oedipus myth, and that the real meaning--for which he makes a solid case--of that myth is ""intellectual blindness,"" thought's inability to outmaneuver fate. Eisner attributes Freud's mistreatment of this and other myths to several factors: his insistence that every human creation was accessible to psychoanalysis; his willingness to extract myth from its cultural contexts; his refusal to distinguish between art and dream as material for the analyst's couch; his considering of mythical characters as real personalities. And since Freud ""imposed his version of the Oedipus myth with a heavy hand on colleagues and patients alike,"" inevitably the psychoanalysts after Freud repeated, more or less, his errors. After laying the cornerstone of his thesis by examining Freud and Oedipus, Eisner examines in turn the major myths borrowed by psychoanalysis--Electra, the daimon, Eros, archetypes, Dionysus, Apollo, the hero, Psyche, Narcissus--and faults, at least in part, every major psychoanalyst from Jung to Reik, pausing to criticize as well the work of Freudian-influenced, non-psychoanalytic thinkers such as Robert Graves and Claude LÉvi-Strauss. Scholarly and not really oriented for the general reader, although Eisner's elegant style can be enjoyed by all; but those with a passion for psychoanalysis or myth will find much to chew on here.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1987
Publisher: Syracuse Univ. Press