Apollo and Marsyas: a metaphor of creative conflict

Adams, L.

Psychoanalytic Review 75(2): 319-338


ISSN/ISBN: 0033-2836
PMID: 3146100
Document Number: 3797
Fortunately for psychoanalysis, the ancient Greeks created myths that illustrate most of the conflicts we encounter in our clinical practice. Not only did Freud name his most famous discovery after a Greek tragic hero, but his entire approach to his subject was imbued with history, archeology, the arts, and an interest in the nature of creativity. The musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas is a particularly rich myth for psychoanalytic investigation because it resonates with the creative conflict on several levels. It may be seen as a metaphor for the Oedipus complex as described by Freud, for preoedipal issues of potential space between inside and outside as discussed by Winnicott and Deri, and for the split image of self sometimes experienced by creative people. The frequent appearance of the Apollo/Marsyas myth in ancient Greek literature and art, its revival during the Renaissance, its popularity with Baroque painters, and its persistence in the modern unconscious attest to its wide appeal.

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Apollo and Marsyas: a metaphor of creative conflict