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Will the real Oedipus please stand up? Metatheoretical perspectives on Oedipus as a unifying function and psychoanalytic theory development

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Is psychoanalysis scientific? Which Oedipus is the “correct” Oedipus? Questions like these have divided psychoanalysis and fueled debates about it since its inception. In this paper, I explore these issues by outlining and adopting an “intertextual” perspective, not to answer such questions but to establish a metatheoretical position that might enable us to step outside of them to consider the broader relationship between theory, myth, literature, and the clinical session. I discuss how concepts such as narcissism and the Oedipal arrangement signify a deeper need for affiliation beyond the content of the myth itself but from within the psychoanalytic field; that they provide a flexible resource but also accrete a historical residue presenting as inertia against a unified psychoanalytic approach. In doing so, the term theory drift is developed to argue that psychoanalytic theory might in part develop through idiosyncratic “etymological” processes that reflect an obligation to retain concepts such as Oedipus and a reluctance to break with existing forms and practices. Finally, I discuss emergence and how it signifies the imponderability of the literary and clinical material with which psychoanalysis works, and look to actor network theory to conceptualize the fluid, intertextual networks within which we exist.
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Keywords: actor network theory; emergence; intertextuality; literature; seriation; shared reality; signification; skeuomorphism; theory construction

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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