Ancient Greek drama, postmodern psychoanalysis and fundamental ambiguity: Euripides and Lacan

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




David L. Miller


Jacques Lacan, Ancient, Greek, Drama, Postmodern, Psychoanalysis, Fundamental ambiguity, Euripides

Subject Categories

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


It is the thesis of this dissertation that many of the theoretical arguments made by Jacques Lacan are articulated in advance by Euripides who conceived, acknowledged, explored and justified the unconscious dimension of the soul, the other within. The dissertation will argue that Euripides 'performed' dramatically the nature, causes and symptoms of ambivalence, conflict, self-deception and otherness that Lacan 'talked' about and theorized.

Resemblances between the ideas of these two persons are extensive. They both had similar modes of perceiving the tragic human position in the world, the complexity of reality, and the consequent difficulty of determining moral judgments.

For both, pathology is inherent in the world and a permanent dimension of human psyche. Euripides and Lacan subverted the conventional boundaries between normality and pathology, and they doubted that sanity and insanity are incompatible. Therapy is not cure but the awareness and recognition of self-delusion. Both agree on the fact that to be human is to fail to make the ideal compromise. This is what makes them both tragic.

This dissertation will also discuss matters of ultimacy and the ethics that shape the religious implications of Lacan's psychoanalysis. Lacan's insistence on the priority of difference over sameness reflects an ethical potential and a religious aspect of psychoanalysis. Euripides also enacted a multiple interpretation of many voices and provided the frame for an intended diversity.

Both thinkers lost their positions as experts: Lacan as an authoritative therapist and Euripides as an authoritative teacher. Yet, each saw an imperative to protect personal dignity and advocated human thought (Euripides) and style (Lacan).


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