Early Stages of the Œdipus conflict : 3rd September 1927 Innsbruck [1928] : Melanie Klein

by Julia Evans on September 3, 1927

Read at the Tenth International Psycho-Analytical Congress, Innsbruck, September 3, 1927.


International Journal of Psycho-Analysis : Vol 9 : p167

Available at www.LacanianWorksExchange.net  /authors a-z

Quoted by Jacques Lacan

– Probably the case of ‘Little Richard’ : P18-19 of Mark Bracher, Russell Grigg, Robert Samuels’ translation of A Theoretical Introduction to the Functions of Psychoanalysis in Criminology (Paris?) : 29th May 1950 : Jacques Lacan : See here : ‘Melanie Klein affirms the categories of Good and of evil at the preverbal stage of behaviour, posing the problem of the retroactive implication of meaning at a stage prior to the appearance of language. We know how her method – playing in spite of all objection with the tensions of the Oedipal complex in an extremely early interpretation of the intentions of a small child – cut this knot by action, and not without provoking passionate debates about her theories.’ Footnote xix

– Seminar IV : 28th November 1957 : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here

– Paragraph 12 of Seminar IV : 9th January 1957 : See  : See Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here

– Probably Paragraph 24 of Seminar IV : 30th January 1957. : Link above : ‘What causes the establishment of this structure? On this point the Kleinians can assure nothing – in any case they have been uneasy for a while now’

– & Paragraph 25 : Seminar IV : 30th January 1957 : due to the existence of Melanie Klein’s system – by the structuration she gives to the first stages of the oral inclinations [tendances], particularly their most aggressive moment,  :  Suggest, Klein (1928) op. cit. p168 : The connection between the formation of the super-ego and the pregenital phases of development is very important from two points of view. On the one hand, the sense of guilt attaches itself to the oral and anal-sadistic phases, which as yet predominate; and, on the other, the super-ego comes into being while these phases are in the ascendant, which accounts for its sadistic severity.

– & Paragraph 25 : Seminar IV : 30th January 1957 : introducing at the very heart of this moment the retroactive projection and the presence of the paternal penis – namely, retroactivating [rétroactivant] the Oedipus complex into the first relations with objects insofar as they are introjectable [introjectables]  :  Suggest, p168 of Klein (1928) op. ci. : My findings lead rather further. They shew that the sense of guilt associated with pregenital fixation is already the direct effect of the Œdipus conflict. And this seems to account satisfactorily for the genesis of such feelings, for we know the sense of guilt to be simply a result of the introjection (already accomplished or, as I would add, in process of being accomplished) of the Œdipus love-objects: that is, a sense of guilt is a product of the formation of the super-ego.


But it is clear why in a child of about one year old the anxiety caused by the beginning of the Œdipus conflict takes the form of a dread of being devoured and destroyed. The child himself desires to destroy the libidinal object by biting, devouring and cutting it, which leads to anxiety, since awakening of the Œdipus tendencies is followed by introjection of the object, which then becomes one from which punishment is to be expected. The child then dreads a punishment corresponding to the offence: the super-ego becomes something which bites, devours and cuts.

– The Meaning (or Signification) of the Phallus (Munich): 9th May 1958 : Jacques Lacan  or here  : p78 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation : What does he actually gain by normalising the function of the phallus as part object if he has to invoke its presence in the mother’s body as internal object, a term which is a function of the fantasies uncovered by Melanie Klein. : p38 of this text. : It does not seem clear why a child of, say, four years old should set up in his mind an unreal, phantastic image of parents who devour, cut and bite.

Quotes from Sigmund Freud

NOTE : None of these quotes give their origin…..

P173 : In girls, however, onanism does not afford anything like so adequate an outlet for these quantities of excitation as it does in boys. Hence the accumulated lack of satisfaction provides yet another reason for more complications and disturbances of female sexual development. The difficulty of obtaining complete gratification by onanism may be another cause, besides those indicated by Freud, for the girl’s repudiation of the practice, and may partly explain why, during her struggle to give it up, manual masturbation is generally replaced by pressing the legs together.

P176 ; Moreover, it is bound to make a difference that the boy’s anxiety is determined by the paternal and the girl’s by the maternal super- ego.

Freud has said that the girl’s super-ego develops on different lines from that of the boy. We constantly find confirmation of the fact that jealousy plays a greater part in women’s lives than in men’s, because it is reinforced by deflected envy of the male on account of the penis.

P178 : To sum up my conclusions: I wish above all to point out that they do not, in my opinion, contradict the statements of Professor Freud. I think that the essential point in the additional considerations which I have advanced is that I date these processes earlier and that the different phases (especially in the initial stages) merge more freely in one another than was hitherto supposed.

Quoted by Sigmund Freud :

Female Sexuality : 1931b : Sigmund Freud, : SEXXI p239 & SE XXI p240-243  :& Published at www.Freud2Lacan.net download here  :  Freud examines the relation to Mother.  The comment on Klein is as follows : SE XXI p241 : Fenichel (1930) rightly emphasizes the difficulty of recognizing in the material produced in analysis what parts of it represent the unchanged  [p3537] content of the pre-Oedipus phase and what parts have been distorted by regression (or in other ways). He does not accept Jeanne Lampl-de Groot’s assertion of the little girl’s active attitude in the phallic phase. He also rejects the ‘displacement backwards’ of the Oedipus complex proposed by Melanie Klein (1928), who places its beginnings as early as the commencement of the second year of life. This dating of it, which would also necessarily imply a modification of our view of all the rest of the child’s development, does not in fact correspond to what we learn from the analyses of adults, and it is especially incompatible with my findings as to the long duration of the girl’s pre-Oedipus attachment to her mother. A means of softening this contradiction is afforded by the reflection that we are not as yet able to distinguish in this field between what is rigidly fixed by biological laws and what is open to movement and change under the influence of accidental experience.

Quoted by other authors

The Dread of Women: Observations on a Specific Difference in the Dread felt by Men and Women Respectively for the Opposite Sex : 1932 : Karen Horney  or here


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Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, London

Further posts:

Some Lacanian history here

Lacanian Transmission  here

Of the clinic here

By Melanie Klein  here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Translation Working Group here

Use of power here

By Julia Evans here