The Ancient Unconscious: Psychoanalysis and the Ancient Text

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Commonly understood as a modern conceptual invention rather than the discovery of a psychic reality, the notion of the unconscious is often criticized by traditional classicists as an anachronistic lens, one that ineluctably subjects ancient experience to modern patterns of thought. The book challenges this ambivalent theoretical disposition toward the psychoanalytic concept by offering an interpretation of the unconscious, explaining why this concept is in fact inseparable from, and crucial for, the study of the ancient text and more generally for the methodology of classical philology. The book thus examines the complicated, often conflicted, relationship between classical studies and psychoanalytic theory. The Ancient Unconscious considers the debate over whether the ancients had an unconscious as an invitation to rethink the relationship between antiquity and modernity. While antiquity does not provide organic provenance for modernity, it is nevertheless the case that despite the cultural and historical distance, the two epochs are firmly connected. The book investigates the meaning of the textual ties created by arbitrary, spontaneous, and unintentional contacts between the past and its future. Understanding the meaning of textuality through contact between times, historical moments that have no priority under the law of chronology, goes hand in hand with the book’s interpretation of the unconscious. Associations and connections between the past and its future—including the present—belong to the sphere of the unconscious. This latter is primarily employed here in order to study the inherent, often hidden links that bind modernity to classical antiquity, modern to ancient experiences.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages240
ISBN (Print)9780198827795
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameClassics in theory
PublisherOxford University Press


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