By Almut-Barbara Renger
Whilst Oedipus met the Sphinx at the street to Thebes, he did greater than solution a riddle—he spawned a fable that, informed and retold, could develop into one among Western culture’s critical narratives approximately self-understanding. selecting the tale as a threshold myth—in which the hero crosses over into an unknown and unsafe realm the place principles and boundaries aren't known—Oedipus and the Sphinx offers a clean account of this mythic come upon and the way it offers with the techniques of liminality and otherness.
Almut-Barbara Renger assesses the story’s meanings and services in classical antiquity—from its presence in old vase portray to its absence in Sophocles’s tragedy—before arriving at of its significant reworkings in ecu modernity: the psychoanalytic conception of Sigmund Freud and the poetics of Jean Cocteau. via her readings, she highlights the ambiguous prestige of the Sphinx and divulges Oedipus himself to be a liminal creature, delivering key insights into Sophocles’s portrayal and constructing a theoretical framework that organizes reviews of the myth’s reception within the 20th century. Revealing the narrative of Oedipus and the Sphinx to be the very paradigm of a key transition skilled by means of all of humankind, Renger situates delusion among the competing claims of technology and artwork in an engagement that has vital implications for present debates in literary reports, psychoanalytic thought, cultural background, and aesthetics.
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Extra info for Oedipus and the Sphinx: The Threshold Myth from Sophocles through Freud to Cocteau
He gets rid of the very eyes with which he misplaced himself in his double’s gaze. The response of the Thebans makes transparent the level to which Oedipus now turns out giant, he whom they'd formerly lauded as ἀνδρῶν δὲ πρῶτον, “the ﬁrst between men,” and as βροτῶν ἄριστ’, “the better of the mortals” (OT 33, 46). there'll be none on the earth reworked right into a extra unlucky country (ἀθλιώτερος) than Oedipus (OT 1204). The choir wails: εἴθε σ᾽ εἴθ’ [ἐγώ] / μήποτ᾽ εἰδόμαν (“If I’d, if I’d merely / by no means obvious you” (OT 1217f. ). And, with the phrases ὦ δεινὸν ἰδεῖν πάθος ἀνθρώποις, / ὦ δεινότατον πάντων ὅσ᾽ ἐγὼ / προσέκυρσ᾽ ἤδη (“O dreadful distress for humanity to determine / O such a lot dreadful of all / That my eyes have ever seen,” OT 1297– 1299), they flip their gaze clear of him, he who additionally sees himself as κακός, “the doer of evil,” as κάκιστον ἄνδρ’, “the so much wicked guy” (OT 1397, 1433): φεῦ φεῦ, δύσταν᾽· ἀλλ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἐσιδεῖν δύναμαί σε (“Woe, O depressing one! i can't undergo to examine you! ”). hence he awakes in them φρίκην: shuddering and terror (OT 1303f. , 1306). t hresh o l d s : zo n e, tra n s f o rmati o n, t r an si t i o n forty-one Coda I: One Monster Confronts one other: Oedipus prior to the Sphinx as a caution opposed to Hubris the tale of the war of words with the Sphinx may be learn because the tale of a guy who refuses to have interaction together with his personal liminality. forged out, followed, and consequently liminal—and, additionally, liminal as an adolescent—he enters a threshold kingdom by means of atmosphere o∏ into the unknown. during this nation, he ﬁrst kills his father on the 3- means intersection, a essentially liminal position insofar because it is a parting of the methods, a spot the place one needs to pick out within which path to move. Then he vanquishes a quintessentially liminal being, the Sphinx. to ensure, he accomplishes an outward switch of kingdom, yet inwardly and ﬁnally, he continues to be in limbo and not involves understand it. What appears a effective “royal initiation” for the person who overcame the Sphinx throughout the energy of his mind is, because it have been, an initiation via a δίμορφον θηρίον right into a threshold country as a δίμορφον θηρίον—into the country of being a true “threshold foot” (Schwell-Fuß), simply because the mark of his swollen foot signiﬁes. A parodic depiction of the riddle scene on an oinochoe, dated from 450/440 BCE, additionally turns out to have made connection with this. sixty seven This Boeotian jug not just depicts the Sphinx as a really repellent chimaera—with her sharp, pointed head, massive beard and ears, and lizard’s tail—but additionally the hero, who has the decrease physique (legs and tail) of a puppy, κύων, and helps himself on spears, that are made to seem just like makeshift additional limbs. The constellation of Oedipus earlier than the Sphinx seems the following as a constellation of 2 beings of maximum liminality: one κύων earlier than one other κύων, one monster ahead of one other. This contemptuous, disparaging depiction of a similar riddle scene that was once so universal within the vase portray of the time, within which Oedipus often looks as a guy of intelligence, nearly completely touches at the problematical of the hero’s historical past.
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