The Ancient Greeks erred in their belief that the infant was in fans, "without speech," a belief with far-reaching implications situating infancy on the cultural margins as an unworthy object of study. Not until the early part of the 20th Century did the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, intrigued by Sigmund Freud's work on dreams and the unconscious, draw attention to the correspondences between the infant's proto-language—an embodied language comprised of body parts and sensory objects organized by the maternal signifier shaping the unconscious—and the language of art, literature and dreams.
This dissertation systematizes Klein's description of early symbol-formation along the lines of Harold Bloom's formulation in A Map of Misreading where he cleverly demonstrates the correspondences of defense mechanisms to literary tropes interpreted as defensive swerves from literal language. Bloom derives his Freudian theory of literary language from his version of the Oedipus complex in which competition drives the ephebe or fledgling poet to defeat the father poet in tropic battle.
In contrast, my Klein-based theory of tropic language is centered on what I term the Jocastean complex (cf., the matricentric Ajase complex of Japanese psychoanalyst Kosawa Heisaku) featuring a powerful, even dangerous, maternal imago in the archaic unconscious introjected at a time when the child is utterly dependent upon the primary caretaker, generally the mother. To cope with the absent object, the child not only finds a way to represent her/him, e.g., a pacifier, stuffed bear, but constructs a series of defenses Klein terms the "primitive defense mechanisms." It is these early defenses and their tropic equivalents that arguably describe the intertextual language of poetry rather than the Oedipal defenses and tropes posited by Bloom's idealist text.
To argue this point, I first describe my Kleinian poetic of defenses and tropes; then discuss corresponding tropic defenses in Freud's theory and Bloom's derivative poetic. There follows a Kleinian reading of three seminal texts in the Western, and Freudian, canons: Oedipus Rex, Hamlet and Lycidas. A fourth text included here, Oedipus at Colonus, emphasizes the hero's journey as a reverse rite of passage to the chthonic realm of the mothers. Summing up, this poetic is a Kleinian study of the psyche's powerful maternal imago (in its various permutations) and the psyche's defenses against "her" in the archaic and cultural, i.e., Freudian unconscious. From a Kleinian standpoint, language is embodied: the Flesh is made Word.