Coming Too Late

Reflections on Freud and Belatedness

By Andrew Barnaby

Subjects: Psychoanalysis, Psychological Approaches To Literature, Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series, Insinuations: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, Literature
Paperback : 9781438465760, 320 pages, July 2018
Hardcover : 9781438465777, 320 pages, August 2017

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Table of contents

Note on Citations for Major Primary Works

Part I. The Refusal of Being Born: Psychoanalysis, Belatedness, and Existential Trauma

Introduction to Part I. Why Are We Born? Inversion in Freud’s “Theme of the Three Caskets”

1. “Awakening is itself the site of a trauma”: Rethinking Caruth on Freud

2. Owing Life: The Birth Trauma and its Discontents (Rank and Freud)
Part II. Tardy Sons: Shakespeare, Freud, and Filial Ambivalence

3. “More than his father’s death”: Mourning at Elsinore and Vienna

4. The Afterwards of the Uncanny

Part III. “Is not He your Father who created you?”: Belatedness and the Judeo-Christian Tradition

Introduction to Part III. Gazing on God

5. Satan’s Gnostic Fantasy

6. Choosing the Father in Moses and Monotheism

Works Cited

Rethinks the significance of the son’s relationship to his father for Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.


Aiming to reconceptualize some of Freud's earliest psychoanalytic thinking, Andrew Barnaby's Coming Too Late argues that what Freud understood as the fundamental psychoanalytic relationship—a son's ambivalent relationship to his father—is governed not by the sexual rivalry of the Oedipus complex but by the existential predicament of belatedness. Analyzing the rhetorical tensions of Freud's writing, Barnaby shows that filial ambivalence derives particularly from the son's vexed relation to a paternal origin he can never claim as his own. Barnaby also demonstrates how Freud at once grasped and failed to grasp the formative nature of the son's crisis of coming after, a duality marked especially in Freud's readings and misreadings of a series of precursor texts—the biblical stories of Moses, Shakespeare's Hamlet, E. T. A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman"—that often anticipate the very insights that the Oedipal model at once reveals and conceals. Reinterpreting Freudian psychoanalysis through the lens of Freud's own acts of interpretation, Coming Too Late further aims to consider just what is at stake in the foundational relationship between psychoanalysis and literature.

Andrew Barnaby is Associate Professor of English at the University of Vermont and the coauthor (with Lisa J. Schnell) of Literate Experience: The Work of Knowing in Seventeenth-Century English Writing.


"Barnaby has written an imaginative, illuminating, original, and very scholarly book. " — CHOICE