Daily Archives: October 9, 2009

Last Post Before the Weekend


In Derek Jarman’s Sebastiane (Latin with English subtitles) one Roman soldier calls another “Oedipus.” No prizes for guessing how the subtitles translate that!

Last thought for this holiday weekend: as the story of a woman’s ultimate triumph, The Color Purple can be grouped with Esther, Ruth, and Judith, and given Celie’s erotic awakening (which I remember well from the book, but can’t recall how prominent it is in the film), The Song of Solomon. “I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem”

Clip from The Color Purple after the break.

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More Oedipal References


I overlooked some  obvious literary applications of Oedipus Rex, to, of course, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth. As Harold Bloom says, instead of doing a Freudian reading of Shakespeare, do a Shakespearean reading of Freud. Perhaps, the Oedipus Complex should have been named the Hamlet Complex, where Freud, so the story goes, discovered his most important analysis at work.

There is also this contemporary usage of Oedipus Rex:  In Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite there is a scene set in the old open Athenian amphitheatre, and one masked Chorus member is speaking with Jocasta:

“Look! Here’s a man who killed his father, and slept with his mother.”
“I hate to tell you what they call my son in Harlem.”

Allen’s Oedipus Wrecks after the break.

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Frye & Football (Or, as we call it here, Soccer)


From Angelo Tallarita, “Italy Camp Focus: We Are No More Than a River of Shadows”

Now October asserts itself, bringing with it a flurry of media news and a legion of chrysanthemums. Autumn is the season of tragedy, according to Northrop Frye. The time when great empires and glittering cities bow down into nameless mud and murk. If that is the case, then it certainly befits the Italian national team at the moment – champions of the world and conquerors of everything in football a few years ago and now incapable of coming to terms with the death and implosion of its own ageing stars. The blue shirts look faded, more than they have done in a while…

This season our team is a beautiful idle woman, bored and tipsy. We look at her like people who are conscious of some coming disaster, yet we have forgotten how to tell her. Around her chrysanthemums, the flowers of autumn, bloom to herald the funerals of a generation deep in winter.

Full article here:


More Spielberg and the Bible


Responding to Russell Perkin and Peter Yan:

It’s the eve of a long weekend, and I’m giddy enough to want to play the game until everyone’s heartily sick of it.

Okay, Spielberg’s Munich: maybe the Book of Judges?   And The Color Purple: it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen it, but maybe Exodus? (But then Exodus is always a safe bet, right?)

Extended clips from Munich after the break.

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Re: Frye and Spielberg and Oedipus Rex


Responding to Peter Yan:

Thanks for this, Peter. You’ve given me even more reason to teach  Oedipus Rex! I studied Frank O’Connor’s story, “My Oedipus Complex,” in high school – a long time ago – and haven’t read it since, but still remember it vividly. It obviously made a deep impression.

As for Spielberg and the Bible, you could make a good case for The Terminal representing at least the proverbial Job! I suppose Munich could be paralleled with one of the historical books of the Bible. Not so sure where you would put The Color Purple, which has the structure of a Shakespearean romance.

Frye and Oedipus Rex


Responding a little more to Russell Perkin’s last post:

Your “superstitious” response to teaching Oedipus Rex is understandable. I recall a workshop, where a teacher (after 30 years experience) didn’t feel ready to tackle Oedipus Rex, which struck me as odd, seeing that the plot seems pretty reader friendly, as opposed to “writerly,” to use Roland Barthes’s term. But now I know how deep the play is after applying Frye to it.

Frye’s archetypal criticism effectively places the work at the centre of the literary and social universe, where the Bible, Literature, Film, Popular Culture, Literary Criticism, Psychology, and Sociology orbit around it.


Reuben sleeps with Israel’s concubine (Genesis 35:22).

Adam rejects the Sky Father to be with the Earth Mother.

Jesus is the opposite of Oedipus: Oedipus kills Father and possesses mother sexually. Jesus obeys Father (Father kills son) and marries mother spiritually, as He is everyone’s (The Church’s) bridegroom.

The curse and plagues and unknown suffering echoes Moses and the Pharoahs and Job.


Countless stories of Father killing son, son killing father, incest, search for origins, prophecy: see “My Oedipus Complex” by Frank O’Connor.


Too many to count, but most popular include Killing of the Father (James Bond: The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day; Gladiator, Star Wars).

Popular Culture:

The Rap song by Immortal Technique Dance with the Devil where gang initiation results in son raping and killing mother.

Literary Criticism:

The Oedipus myth is used as a critical term/conceptual myth by Harold Bloom, in ways the writer writes (anxiety of influence) and readers read (misreading), both trying to kill off earlier influence.


Obviously, The Oedipus Complex. Even the 5 Stages of Grief (Oedipus goes through Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Acceptance) appear here first. And Jung’s idea of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidence, is the basis of every literary action/plot.


The search for the adopted parents, usually the father, is a major issue given the popularity and technology of sperm donors.

Video of Immortal Technique’s Dance with the Devil after the break.

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