The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #60: Sophocles

General Introduction
– Looking for the Yeti
– What’s on the blog?
– The review is coming tomorrow!
– Boethius Battlefield writes in
– An unenthusiastic obituary

A Primer on Greek Drama
– Civic festival
– Dionysian competition
– Millennia of theorizing
– Chorus and individuated characters
– The world’s most tedious arthouse film

A Primer on Sophocles
Popularity and fame
– The Theban trilogy
– The lost plays of Sophocles
– The third person

Aristotle Reads Oedipus
– What makes tragedy good for the city?
– Freytag’s Triangle
– Breaking up the action
– How readings limit our readings
– Why Oedipus is like IKEA

David and Nathan and Oedipus and Tiresias
– Minimizing sin at the expense of the polis
– Why Oedipus is not a particularly evil king
– Who suffers with whom?
– On death and exile
– What is Oedipus condemned for?
– Tragic flaw or great mistake?

I’m A-Freud of That Play!
– How does Freud fare as a reader of Sophocles?
– Skipping centuries of critics
– De-mythologizing (but not what you think)
– Human desires
– Stunted development
– The connection to dreams

Antigone
– Who’s the tragic hero here?
– Public and private virtues
– To whom your obligation?
– Why Creon is not a monster
– Antigone as feminist icon
– Sophocles and civil disobedience

The Takeaway
– What does Sophocles do well?
– Why should Christians read him?
– The rebirth of tragedy
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aristotle. Trans. Gerald Else. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1967.

Dante. Inferno. Trans. Mark Musa. New York: Penguin, 2002.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. James Strachey. New York: Basic, 2010.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches. Ed. James M. Washington. New York: Harper, 1990.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? South Bend, Ind.: U of Notre Dame P, 1989.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1998.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings. Ed. Raymond Geuss and Ronald Speirs. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.

Plato. The Republic. Trans. Allan Bloom. New York: Basic, 1991.

Sophocles. The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 2000.

7 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #60: Sophocles

  1. I’m a psychology professor, not an English professor, so thank you for commenting on Freud as a reader of Oedipus.

    “Antigone Tweets.” Doggone it! You’ve gone and said it, so now you’ve called it into being! Now somebody’s going to go and make that!

  2. You’re welcome, sir! I’ve been putting together a course on Greco-roman mythology (sources/theory/legacy), so this episode was a golden opportunity to discuss the Sophocles/Oedipus/Freud cluster, one of the more notable “intellectual heirlooms” of classical art and modern thought.

    Sometimes we don’t anticipate the consequences of our improvisational wit…

  3. Charles, I know that you are both a psychology teacher and a professor at a Christian college, so I’d love it if you told us what Freud’s reputation is like these days in your field as a whole and in the narrow slice of it you inhabit. Literary critics love Freud even when we hate him; have psychologists (and Christian psychologists in particular) repudiated him altogether, or does he remain an important figure in modern psychoanalysis?

    We oughta do a psychology episode sometime, but other than my own mental health issues and a generalized existentialist distrust of psychiatry and psychopharmacology, I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the subject.

  4. I am an adjunct prof at a seminary and teach intro to psych theory. Yes, Freud remains a pillar figure in the realm of psychtheory, however, the field as it is practiced resembles little of the intra-psychic passions, positions and curiosities that captivated Freud. The medical model of psychotherapy today is time compressed and this negates the time needed to flesh out in fullness a true psychoanalytic treatment process.

    On a personal level, my therapeutic passion, even though I’m a state licensed psychotherapist, is to appreciate, recognize and discuss psychotherapy as first and foremost a pastoral art that was historically a valued, trusted and compassionate branch of the care reach of the Believing community. As modern ministry modalities & ministry techniques have taken center stage over the past 160 years, this has profoundly shifted focus from pastoral care to secular analysis and behavior modification… from soul care to secular care of the psyche. I posit that the Christian existential conversation holds the Gospel power to retrieve the human soul from the grasp of secularization and dehumanization and return it to a state of purpose and deep meaning in relationship to Messiah.

    Looking very forward to hearing Charles insights!!!

    Blessings and Courage on this endeavor

  5. Freud’s reputation in mainstream psychology is primarily historical. I often tell my students that, if they want to understand 20th-Century psychology, they need to understand Freud, because most movements in North American psychology can be understood in terms of the way in which they disagreed with Freud. Behaviorism developed (in part) because Freud talked big about having finally created a totally scientific psychology, while at the same time mucking around with things like dream analysis and the channeling of nonexistent energy. Humanistic psychology developed (in part) because Freud was terribly pessimistic in his view of human nature and the possibility of change. So you can’t ignore Freud if you want to know psychology.

    (There’s also the fact that Freud is just plain fun, what with all the sex and violence)

    Current mainstream psychoanalysis has largely passed Freud by, and is now focused more on post-Freudian schools like ego psychology and object relations. And current mainstream psychology is not very psychoanalytic anymore. Psychoanalysts exist, but are a minority group (Division 39 of the APA is dedicated to psychoanalytic psychology). Currently, the cognitive psychologists are running the show (George Vaillant at Harvard Medical has some interesting ideas about a cognitivized appropriation of Freud’s defense mechanisms).

    As a Christian psychologist, I can’t 100% embrace or dismiss Freud. He had some very good insights, and I think he does a better job than most of pointing at the human mind as a battlefield between what I desire to do and what I know I should do. But his reduction of pretty much everything to sex and violence and symbolic stand-ins for sex and violence doesn’t fit well with what I see as a biblically-informed view of humans.

    A psychology episode would be good stuff. Especially since there is so much talk in these podcasts about the virtues, and one of my primary areas of work involves psychological theories/research on the virtues. I’m excited about the idea of y’all starting a great books discussion club-sorta-thing, since I think it will deepen my understanding of these issues.

  6. For what it’s worth, Simone Weil has a whole book connecting ancient Greek writers to Christian thought. She sees their writing as “intimations of Christianity.” Although it may be hard to take some of her presuppositions seriously, she may have something to offer a Christian scholar when engaging this literature.

    For Sophocles, she says: “Among the Greek poets, Sophocles is the one whose quality of inspiration is the most visibly Christian and perhaps the most pure (he is to my knowledge much more Christian than any tragic poet of the last twenty centuries). This Christian quality is generally recognized in the tragedy of Antigone”

    She finds Prometheus to be a Christ figure.

  7. I’m sorry that I’m still dragging my feet on the discussion board. EC’s fall break starts this afternoon, so there’s actually a chance that I’ll be able to set that up tomorrow or Friday. Entirely a mea culpa here, folks.

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