Intro to Oedipus the King and Sophocles

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Published on 3 Oct 2011
School
Simon Fraser University
Department
English
Course
ENGL 103W
English 103 Lecture 7
October 3, 2011
Oedipus the King
By: Sophocles
The Oresteia is about:
chthonic forces, such as the Furies;
about the power of revenge and how difficult it is;
about hatred, war and rage;
about choices being taken out of one's hands;
about Gods and elemental forces.
On the other hand, Sophocles' plays are about:
the individual being an agent, about choices.
The opposite of an agent is a patient. Agent is the one who acts(has control), the patient is the
one being acted on(no control). To be an agent is to have the power of choice.
Sophocles is interested in how his characters are agents, they are not toys of gods. His world is
not primal and elemental, but is deceptive none the less. There still are forces that affect us, but
they are personal, psychological or philosophical. We seem to have a lot of choice, but we
don't. There's a lot of stuff that goes on in our minds that we don't really know about.
Epistemology = the study of how we know what we know.
Freud: interested in the idea of personal choices and the fact that we seem to have a lot of choice but
we do now.
Rumsfeld: the known – known (where the lecture hall is)
-unknown (Saturn has rings around it)
the unknown -known (which planet has the most moons)
-unknown (things we are absolutely ignorant about it: there are ducks who crap
out swords)
Sophocles and Freud are interested in the unknown unknowns. Interested in the power of the mind to
affect us in ways we do not understand. It's motivated knowledge/hot cognition.
The unknown knowns are MOTIVATION. We become resistant to it. We only have access to this
knowledge thru dreams, jokes, literature, etc.
What does Oedipus does that gets him in so much trouble?
He is overconfident in his ability to know stuff, he tries to find out too much
knowledge.
His HUBRIS is that he is given many hints to ''not go there'', to ''not ask'', but he still
tries to get to the bottom of it and figure it out.
The more he investigates, the more horrible a fate he faces. He blinds himself
because the eyes are known as the ''royal road to knowledge''.
Sophocles is saying that there is more to our minds than understanding could know.
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Document Summary

The oresteia is about: chthonic forces, such as the furies; about the power of revenge and how difficult it is; about hatred, war and rage; about choices being taken out of one"s hands; about gods and elemental forces. On the other hand, sophocles" plays are about: the individual being an agent, about choices: the opposite of an agent is a patient. Agent is the one who acts(has control), the patient is the one being acted on(no control). To be an agent is to have the power of choice. Sophocles is interested in how his characters are agents, they are not toys of gods. His world is not primal and elemental, but is deceptive none the less. There still are forces that affect us, but they are personal, psychological or philosophical. We seem to have a lot of choice, but we don"t. There"s a lot of stuff that goes on in our minds that we don"t really know about.