The Tragedy of Fatherhood: King Laius and the Politics of Paternity in the West

Author(s): Silke-Maria Weineck

Literary theory

Winner of the 2014 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies, awarded by the Modern Language Association. Theories of power have always been intertwined with theories of fatherhood: paternity is the oldest and most persistent metaphor of benign, legitimate rule. The paternal trope gains its strength from its integration of law, body, and affect-in the affirmative model of fatherhood, the biological father, the legal father, and the father who protects and nurtures his children are one and the same, and in a complex system of mutual interdependence, the father of the family is symbolically linked to the paternal gods of monotheism and the paternal ruler of the monarchic state. If tragedy is the violent eruption of a necessary conflict between competing, legitimate claims, The Tragedy of Fatherhood argues that fatherhood is an essentially tragic structure. Silke-Maria Weineck traces both the tensions and various strategies to resolve them through a series of readings of seminal literary and theoretical texts in the Western cultural tradition. In doing so, she demonstrates both the fragility and resilience of fatherhood as the most important symbol of political power. A long history of fatherhood in literature, philosophy, and political thought, The Tragedy of Fatherhood weaves together figures as seemingly disparate as Aristotle, Freud, Kafka, and Kleist, to produce a stunning reappraisal of the nature of power in the Western tradition.


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The long history of fatherhood, and its entanglements with ideas of power, in Western literature, philosophy, history, and political theory.

Silke-Maria Weineck is Chair of Comparative Literature and Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan, USA. She is the author of The Abyss Above: Philosophy and Poetic Madness in Plato, Holderlin, and Nietzsche (2002).

Section I: Freud's Fatherhood I One Revenants Section II: The Tragic Father Two The Laius Complex Three Oedipus Pater Four "I Must Do What I've Been Told": Abraham and the Conditions of Paternity Section III: The Political Father Five Aristotle and the Body of the Father Six Paternity and the Perfect City Seven Hobbes: The End of the Paternal Triad Section IV: The Rise of the Son Eight "I Will Be King No More": Lessing's Philotas and the Abdication of the Father Nine Kleist: Paternal Resurrections Section V: Freud's Fatherhood II Ten The Gschnas, or the Path to the Fatherless Society Conclusion Dead Children Bibliography

General Fields

  • : 9781628927894
  • : Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • : Bloomsbury Academic USA
  • : October 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Paperback
  • : 224
  • : Silke-Maria Weineck