Comparative Classics: On Greek and Indian Epic Poetry | Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire

Comparative Classics: On Greek and Indian Epic Poetry | Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire

  • 04 Apr

    Aesthetics, Criticism and Theory (ACT)

    Various Scholars

Comparative Classics: On Greek and Indian Epic Poetry |  Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire

Comparative Classics: On Greek and Indian Epic Poetry

'In the beginning was the word.’  This paper reflects on ancient Greek and Sanskrit epic poetry (the Iliad, Odyssey, Mahabharata, and Ramayana).  We look at the beginnings of the poems and reflect on the linked themes of grief, pain, and poetry.  The Iliad begins with the anger of Achilles, for instance, and the Ramayana with the anguish of ‘Valmiki’.  Both epic traditions imply that song and poetic traditions begin in grief, pain, and trauma.  Why should this be the case?  Why does verse have to come from suffering?  We look at the poems comparatively and see how each helps us appreciate the themes of the other.


Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire

Anyone stepping into Freud’s study at 20 Maresfield Gardens in London will be immediately struck by the vast array of figurines, books and artwork on display that either originate from, or are inspired by, the ancient world. Freud was a compulsive collector of antiquities, which according to the poet H.D., were intimately bound up with his development of the concepts and methods of psychoanalysis. Freud once said that he had read more books on archaeology than on psychology, and he drew continued inspiration from the fields of anthropology and classical studies. However, in the institutionalisation of Freudian theory this rich and vital source of inspiration was neglected; we tend to be presented with a version of Freud the theorist as distinct from Freud the collector. Indeed, whilst many of Freud's concepts - the Oedipus complex, repression, penis envy - have entered the everyday life of numerous languages, only a tiny fraction of the broader public has any idea that Freud's theories emerged out of an intense engagement with nineteenth-century archaeology, through which he sought to materialise his ideas and make them real - make them matter. This paper takes a close look at the ‘archaeological metaphor’ in Freud’s thought and thinks about the tension between object and idea in his engagement with antiquity.


*These lectures will be conducted at our institute in Fort, Mumbai and will also be live streamed on Zoom Platform.


Duration -

April 4, 2023

Timing: 6:30 - 8:30 PM IST

Registrations Closed

Miriam Leonard

Miriam Leonard

Miriam Leonard is Professor of Greek Literature and its Reception at University College London. Her research explores the intellectual history of Greco-Roman classics in modern European thought from the eighteenth century to the present. She is author of Athens in Paris: Ancient Greece and the Political in Post-War French Thought (OUP, 2005), How to Read Ancient Philosophy (Granta, 2008), Socrates and the Jews: Hellenism and Hebraism from Moses Mendelssohn to Sigmund Freud (University of Chicago Press, 2012) and Tragic Modernities (Harvard University Press, 2015). She was the curator of the 2019 exhibition ‘Freud and Egypt’ at the Freud Museum, London where she is currently co-curating ‘Freud’s Antiquity: Object, Idea, Desire’

Phiroze Vasunia

Phiroze Vasunia

Phiroze Vasunia is Professor of Greek at University College London. His publications include The Gift of the Nile (2001), Zarathushtra and the Religion of Ancient Iran (2007), and The Classics and Colonial India (2013). He is the general editor of the series Ancients and Moderns, published by Bloomsbury, and the editor, with Daniel L. Selden, of The Oxford Handbook of the Literatures of the Roman Empire (forthcoming). He is the principal convenor of a research project entitled 'Comparative Classics: Greece, Rome, India’, from which this paper is drawn.