On Psychopathology and Existence: Ahab and Lear
International Journal of European Studies
Volume 1, Issue 1, February 2017, Pages: 15-20
Received: Mar. 16, 2017; Accepted: Apr. 1, 2017; Published: May 18, 2017
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Goetz Egloff, Practice for Psychoanalysis, Mannheim, Germany
Trin Fuchs, Chemnitz, Germany
Dennis M. Jacobson, Inst Cultural Studies, Budapest, Hungary
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Ahab, the notorious captain of the Pequod in Herman Melville’s 1851 novel, Moby-Dick, is put in relation with King Lear, the desperate old regent from William Shakespeare’s eponymous play published in 1608. Its main character, apart from Macbeth, is considered to have had deep influence on Melville, especially in creating the character of Ahab. What ties them together is not only their overabundant quest for meaning, if ever, but their obsession with pursuing their targets. Whereas at the beginning of the seventeenth century conflicts are established on the inside of the protagonists rather than on the outside, the nineteenth century still sees Ahab’s monomanic escapism outside of his consciousness, the latter due to forces that he does not perceive as coming from within. However, in terms of psychopathology both characters show symptoms: the differences and parallels of their behavior are elaborated on in the context of their personal realities and of issues of existence.
Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, Moby-Dick, King Lear, Psychopathology, Existence
To cite this article
Goetz Egloff, Trin Fuchs, Dennis M. Jacobson, On Psychopathology and Existence: Ahab and Lear, International Journal of European Studies. Vol. 1, No. 1, 2017, pp. 15-20. doi: 10.11648/j.ijes.20170101.13
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cp. Weidle R (2009). Die Tragoedie als Ort des Scheiterns: Grenzsituationen und das Ich-Selbst in Shakespeares King Lear. In: von Engelhardt D, Gerigk HJ (eds.). Karl Jaspers im Schnittpunkt von Zeitgeschichte, Psychopathologie, Literatur und Film. Heidelberg: Mattes, pp. 169-185.
cp. Stanghellini G, Fuchs T (2013). Editors’ Introduction. In: Stanghellini G, Fuchs T (eds.). One Century of Karl Jaspers’ General Psychopathology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. XIII-XXIII.
The psychoanalytic psychopathology concept differs from the psychiatric psychopathology concept in using several different terms and approaches, yet it need not necessarily be that far from the latter as long as it provides space and openness, and as long as it does not make use of shortcut deterministic labeling that will suggest shortcut deterministic etiopathology concepts. Apart from the fact that fictional characters are not patients, from a perspective of psychoanalytic psychopathology the question of motifs in characters can heuristically play a crucial role not only in broadening the understanding of possible personal motivations but even in discovering an anthropological dimension in the characters’ dealings with obstacles, tribulations, and crises. All in all, the approach encompasses exploring of what von Matt terms the ‘psychodramatic substrate’ of a work of fiction (cp. von Matt P (2001). Literaturwissenschaft und Psychoanalyse. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam).
cp. Kuechenhoff J (2000). Aesthetische Form und unbewusster Sinn – Selbstfuersorge und Identitaet in Moby Dick. In: Psyche 54 (1), pp. 51-72. Here the concept of identity is applied from a psychoanalytically informed, yet existential philosophy perspective.
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The Ishmaelean truth that “(…) things exist only in relation to other things (…),” (qtd. in Brodtkorb P (1986). The Nature and Forms of Despair. In: Quirk T, Barbour J (eds.). Romanticism. Critical Essays in American Literature. New York: Garland, p. 277) is not necessarily a Christian concept, though.
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Such an emancipatory position was partially implied in some very different literary context, namely in the domestic novel, at some very different point of time, just around when Moby-Dick was released (cp. Egloff G (2015). Ideology and Emancipation in Maria Susanna Cummins. International Journal of Literature and Arts 3 (6), 166-170).
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