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Oedipus, Schoedipus

The story becomes a complex—the Lot complex—because its “primal interest imposes itself upon history, religion, art and individual psychology, and people in turn impose their history, experience, personal mind-sets and imaginative skills on the biblical text.” [Robert M.] Polhemus doesn’t invent the Lot complex any more than Freud invented the Oedipus complex. What he does—thoroughly and brilliantly—is identify what has existed for millenniums of recorded history, introducing diverse examples of the archetypal transaction between a young, sometimes very young, woman and the man who, if he isn’t actually her father, is old enough to substitute.
So welcome to Daughterland, where we don’t read much Hemingway, or grill meat outdoors, and where we’re mystified, and a little bored, by all the hysteria over Oedipus, who didn’t even know it was his mother he was sleeping with. Oh, he was unlucky, certainly, so unlucky that he happened into what’s more usually the female contretemps of being sullied by sex. But can you imagine if every woman who discovered herself the unwitting accomplice to her own defilement thrust pins into her eyes? Seeing Eye dogs would march cheek by jowl down supermarket aisles.

Lot's DaughtersNew York Time Book Review, you sly minx, you. How coyly naughty to have Kathryn Harrison review a new study of father-daughter eros in art and culture.

I tend to enjoy Harrison’s work—including The Kiss, but also her novels Poison and The Binding Chair—and, as you can see from the excerpt above, this is a very clever review. Lot’s Daughters: Sex, Redemption, and Women’s Quest for Authority is the name of the book Harrison’s describing here, and it sounds pretty good, too—erudite, original, and provocative in the best kind of way.

February 15, 2005 | Permalink

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