New Studies of Old Villains

A Radical Reconsideration of the Oedipus Complex


Publication Date: Jan 13, 2009

144 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $17.95
ISBN: 9781590512821


Freud’s discovery of the Oedipus complex has had a tumultuous fate in the field of psychology in the United States. At first considered the kernel of psychoanalysis it progressively lost its luster because of its patriarchal underpinnings—today Freud is barely studied in psychology departments. His theory of the unconscious born of the notion that the child represses his love for his mother for fear of incurring his father’s wrath is now obsolete and replaced by various theories focused mainly on the mother-child relationship where the burning question of the child’s sexual development is conveniently set aside. In this revolutionary book Paul Verhaeghe, an expert Lacanian psychoanalyst and psychologist and award-winning author, explains why the Oedipus complex is not what it appears to be. Freud’s theory can be read as a a defensive myth that patients themselves invent in order to avoid confronting a forbidden enjoyment. Lacan’s theory sheds a new light on this need for a defense.

Seen from that angle the whole history of psychoanalysis, its twists and turns, is revisited, revealing connections with recent discoveries in attachment theory. New Studies of Old Villains will be of great interest to psychologists, therapists, and departments of psychology.



Excerpt from New Studies of Old Villains

LACAN’S CROCODILE MOTHER: Freud’s case studies testify to the fact that many neurotics need a strong father figure. The well-known “family romance” is a kind of imaginary upgrade of the father, providing him with more authority, just as in Freud’s second version of the primal horde myth. This version explains how the father is re-installed by the son. Both the family romance-fantasy and the primal horde myth demonstrate the need for a strong forbidding father, in order, explains Freud, to curtail the son’s incestuous desire for his mother. As we saw, Freud’s rewriting of the myth redefined the necessity of the father function, which has something to do with a need for protection from something arising from the woman/mother figure, although it is never very clear (in Freud, that is) what exactly this danger is about. The accent for Freud is much more on how to help the neurotic solve the problem (by installing a strong father figure) than on the underlying problem itself.