V.S.Pritchett asks us to assume Oedipus has just come across the fact that Freud has been mentioning him in his lectures, and brings an action for defamation of character. He wants up to 500 words of the speech for the plaintiff.
Pritchett says he finds judging this hard, and also says the entries fall into two categories: orthodox and original. The orthodox line says that Oedipus claims he didn’t know that his father was Laius and Jocasta was his mother. But, reasons Pritchett, isn’t the point of the Oedipus complex that it’s unconscious? (There is something slightly astray about this argument, but let it pass – from the point of view of a chooser of better winners, Pritchett is right.)
T.E. Casson, ever the classicist, is mentioned in dispatches for sending in an extract from an Aristophanic play. A new name, ‘Lamentable’, argues for Oedipus that his dignity is liable to be damaged. Pritchett comments that this is going to hold no water in an English court. He gives the first prize to Guy Hadley, who has done what winners do – gone beyond the brief. the The runner-up, Eremita, has Oedipus asking for the right to retire peacefully in Tunbridge Wells. Hmmm.
Hadley’s choice of an American wide guy is interesting in that many of the ‘Scarface’ films suggest an Oedipal motive. Freud himself, of course, was still alive, and still in Vienna – he didn’t come to England until 1938, well after Hitler’s annexation of Austria.