From the Glory of Hera to the Wrath of Achilles: Narratives of Second-Wave Masculinity and Beyond

by Nancy J. Chodorow, PhD



Second-wave psychoanalytic feminism understood masculinity through theories that converge in seeing masculinity in mother-son terms. The dread of women, primary femininity, disidentification, father absence, and society without the father all portray an overpowering mother. Men’s reaction is to define masculinity as the not-feminine and as superior, to deny and deprecate femininity in themselves and in women. After Slater, I call these dynamics the “Glory of Hera.” I suggest that they more accurately describe the generic conflicts of men than Freud’s Oedipus. Here, I suggest a third classical narrative. Masculinity is equally, perhaps more basically, understood in terms of the “Wrath of Achilles.” The fundamental developmental and psychic challenge for men is how to be the senior male who humiliates rather than the junior male who feels humiliated and inferior. These dynamics are widespread clinically, and we find them not only in The Iliad but also throughout the literary and operatic canon.


Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 16: 261–270, 2015.

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Previous Posts:


Rona Knight, PhD (2014). Free to Be You and Me: Normal Gender-Role Fluidity—Commentary on Diane Ehrensaft’s “Listening and Learning from Gender-Nonconforming Children” Related Papers. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 68:57-70.

Rita K. Teusch, PhD (2015). Sadomasochistic Relations Between Ego and Superego in Anorexic Patients. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 32/1: 191-212, October 2015.

Anthony D. Bram, PhD and Jed Yalof, PsyD (2015). Quantifying Complexity: Personality Assessment and Its Relationship With Psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic Inquiry. 35, 74-97.

Mary Anderson, PhD (2015) The Conscious Heart: On the Act of Creation and the Compassionate Teachings of Art. Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Vol 43, No 1-2, pp. 21-31.

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