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By Elizabeth L. Barnes

This wide-ranging assortment tracks the contradictory roles of incest in Anglo-American literature, politics, and tradition from the center a long time, a interval Elizabeth Barnes states is taken into account unmatched for its "unblinking reputation of many types of incest," to the current. Barnes explicates the function of incest in Anglo-American literature and tradition, and in doing so sheds new gentle at the normal tale of incest as a vice of barbarians and a privilege of the elite. The essays variety throughout quite a few methodological approaches--including psychoanalytic, cultural-historical, biographical, and queer theoretical.

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The category of 40 Susan Frye incest that can be harmful to others I call “physical incest,” in which people who are immediately related have bodily sexual relations. In the second category, “political incest,” incest works to define the boundaries and authority of a dynasty. The marriage of the future Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, for example, was ruled both a nonincestuous union and then an incestuous one, and both times in accordance with the desire—originally located in the father, Henry VII—to perpetuate the Tudor dynasty.

When the daughter has sex with her father, consummating the desire for union and authority, the act precipitates the collapse of generational kinship categories best described in the metaphor of the cannibal: “I eate my mothers fleshe”; the daughter consumes her mother. Once the bodies of mother and daughter have merged, they become members of the same generation. Nevertheless, the daughter cannot actually become the mother—and yet, when the father beds his daughter, he alters her generational status, making her part of her mother’s generation and thus her sister, while the daughter’s father then becomes her brother in the sense of brother-in-law.

Raymo, “Works of Religious and Philosophical Instruction,” in vol. 7 of A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, gen. ed. Albert E. Hartung (New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1986), 2255–582. 8. See L. Constans, La Légende d’Oedipe (Paris: Droz, 1881); Lowell Edmunds, “Oedipus in the Middle Ages,” Antike und Abendland 25 (1976): 140–55; and Archibald, “Sex and Power in Thebes and Babylon: Oedipus and Semiramis in Classical and Medieval Texts,” forthcoming in Journal of Medieval Latin 11 (2002): 38–60.

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