Original Research

Freud, Said, and the ancient and classical worlds

Roger M. Field
Literator | Vol 37, No 1 | a1234 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v37i1.1234 | © 2016 Roger M. Field | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 August 2015 | Published: 22 August 2016

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Roger M. Field, English Department, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

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Sigmund Freud’s reading of the classics and Greek mythology is well documented. By contrast, Edward Said’s reading of Freud has received little attention. This article considers three main issues: how Said and Freud thought about and used ancient and classical Greek literature; the ways in which Said has read Freud reading the ancient and classical worlds; the significance of ambivalence and analogy for these readings. The article concludes that there is a necessary relationship between analogy and ambivalence. Primarily chronological, the reading also draws on Freud’s notions of latency and repression to track how Said’s approaches to ambivalence and analogy changed. In the case of Said, it is possible to attribute some of these changes to the impact of Bernal’s Black Athena, which encouraged him to review the notions of ancient Greek society which underpin Orientalism, and to Bernal’s narrative inspiration, Kuhn’s The structure of scientific revolutions. Latency and repression make it possible to posit prehistories. Therefore, the article also examines the ways in which Freud and Said have been obliged to assume continuities between prehistory and history, and between individual and mass psychology.


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