Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)

First Advisor

Robert J. Edgeworth


Since Freud's article "On Narcissism," behavioral psychologists have predominantly viewed this phenomenon as a personality disorder. This dissertation, in contrast, provides a psychoanalytic, i.e., Lacanian reading of the myth of Narcissus as it is recorded in classical literature, and brings about an understanding of the myth's underlying structure. The four fundamental exigencies of the myth's structure include the incest prohibition which symbolically castrates the human subject, the incestuous desire as a result of this prohibition, the displacement of this desire for another imaginary object, and the obsessive quest of that image as the symptom. This structure--defined as narcissistic structure and encountered in the behavior of human beings--manifests itself in all kinds of literary texts from various national literatures, genres, and epochs as a literary theme, the Narcissus theme. Yet this narcissistic configuration prevails as a structural fact beyond the study of specific influence of the Narcissus myth. An examination of texts in which the myth of Narcissus is neither an explicit nor an implicit theme also often reveals the structure of this myth. In conclusion, I suggest that an understanding of the frustrating mechanisms of the narcissistic structure may allow us to escape the violent and suicidal aspects of this configuration.