Sigmund Freud's interpretation of the Oedipus myth - that subconsciously, every man wants to kill his father in order to obtain his mother's undivided attention - is widely kwn. Arguing that the pervasiveness of Freud's ideas has unduly influenced scholars studying the works of Modernist writers, Bradley W. Buchanan re-examines the Oedipal narratives of authors such as D.H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf, and James Joyce in order to explore their conflicted attitudes towards the humanism that underpins Freud's views. In the alternatives to the Freudian version of Oedipus offered by twentieth-century authors, Buchanan finds a complex examination of the limits of human understanding. Following the analyses of philosophers such as G.W.F. Hegel and Frederick Nietzsche and anticipating critiques by writers such as Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze, British Modernists saw Oedipus as representative of the embattled humanist project. Closing with the concept of posthumanism as explored by authors such as Zadie Smith, Oedipus Against Freud demonstrates the lasting significance of the Oedipus story.
Bradley W. Buchanan is Associate Professor of English at California State University, Sacramento.