Re: English professors and psychoanalysis
From: Dr. Kathy Bahr 
Subject: Re: English professors and psychoanalysis

Posters to this list have duplicated the conversations that usually take place when we discuss the poem  in class.  The language and cadence produce at least two very different effects on readers.  "My Papa's Waltz" could be read as a speech/act of clinging to father "for dear life."  There is more than one stage to the oedipal complex and the comments below point toward  the resolution: male bonding reassures one that father will not harm.  If you see no validity to psac criticism, you aren't going to buy it, but the language of "death," "beating," "scraping," etc. is there along with the "clinging," and there is more than one way to interpret the mother's frowning.  No wonder "My Papa's Waltz" appears in nearly every classroom anthology.  Dogmatism ruins the fun--especially if it is the teacher's dogmatism.

Kathy Bahr

  I cannot read any abuse or Oedipus complex in Roethke's poem.  I see two boys, one big, one small horseplaying to the dismayed disapproval of Mama. Here is the classic father-son exercise in male bonding, full of mirth and excitement, perhaps a little rough, a little rowdy and not entirely free of danger, but fun and manly. It's the male thing. I can easily imagine the boy, after clinging for dear life, wanting to cling to dear life some more,  because he knows his father loves him and will not harm him.

  Thomas D. Le

  Nora Crow <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

    Exactly.� Any suggestion of abuse in Roethke's poem is pure imagination.� "My Papa's Waltz" is full of love.

    Nora F. Crow
    Professor of English
    Smith College

    On Mar 14, 2006, at 7:32 AM, Sherry Zivley wrote:

      In speaking of his father in _North American Sequence_, Roethke says (and I paraphrase), "What need of heaven with that man, those roses."



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Dr. Kathy Bahr
Interim Dean, School of Arts & Sciences
Chadron State College
Chadron, NE  69337