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It is only when faced with the thing that Freud naively took at its face value—the gripping drama of incest—that exegetists take their distance! Delcourt (1944) devoted a fairly substantial study to Oedipus (Oedipe ou la légende du conquérant). As its title suggests, the author’s intention was to see the hero’s misadventures as centring around power and his relationship with his roots. Relying on a host of links between the earth and the mother’s body, Delcourt argued that the real drama of Oedipus was tyranny.
Rather, his focus is on how meaning is achieved through dream imagery, a meaning which relates to current conscious daytime life. Psychoanalysis enters here not as a mode of analysis but as a cultural resource for the participants who readily picked up and interpreted dream imagery in sexual terms, a kind of ‘dog Freudianism’. Perhaps this reveals most clearly Sperber’s contention that ‘exegesis is not an interpretation but rather an extension of the symbol and must itself be interpreted’ (Sperber, 1975:34).
Just as the psychoanalyst is Interpreting the implicit 37 dealing with subjects who speak a particular language, belong to a certain kinship system, received such-and-such an education, all of which give form and content to their ways of being, so the reader-analyst finds texts that are already structured and stylised. And, just as the psychoanalyst must try to grasp the cultural and sociological codes of his patients—something which is all the more difficult when these codes are close to his own—so must he situate the fictitious characters who interest him within their own system of cultural references.