The eternal return of the father: The Oedipus complex in Nietzsche

Edith Steffen

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Noting a curious parallel between an incident from Friedrich Nietzsche’s life shortly before his mental breakdown involving the passionate defence of a mistreated horse and a dream recounted in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment which bears Oedipal overtones, this article attempts to offer an interpretation of this incident and other aspects of Nietzsche’s life and work from the perspective of the Oedipus complex as developed by Freud. Drawing on a variety of theoretical and clinical writings such as the case study of ‘Little Hans’, Totem and taboo and Beyond the pleasure principle as well as biographical and literary material, it tries not only to shed light on Nietzsche and the significance of his ‘father complex’ but also, through the use of Nietzsche’s example, to illuminate and illustrate Freud’s theoretical elaborations of the Oedipus complex and its psychoanalytic assumptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-55
JournalPsychotherapy Section Review
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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