- Sigmund Freud: 5 Lectures about Psychoanalysis
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One of the unconscious desires most commonly repressed is the childhood wish to displace the parent of our own sex and take his or her place in the affections of the parent of the opposite sex. This desire really involves a number of different but related wishes and fears. A boy--and it should be remarked in passing that Freud here concerns himself mainly with the male--may fear that his father will castrate him, and he may wish that his mother would return to nursing him.
Freud referred to the whole complex of feelings by the word "oedipal," naming the complex after the Greek tragic hero Oedipus, who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother. Why are oedipal wishes and fears repressed by the conscious side of the mind? And what happens to them after they have been censored? As Roy P.
Basler puts it in Sex, Symbolism, and Psychology in Literature , "from the beginning of recorded history such wishes have been restrained by the most powerful religious and social taboos, and as a result have come to be regarded as 'unnatural,'" even though "Freud found that such wishes are more or less characteristic of normal human development": In dreams, particularly, Freud found ample evidence that such wishes persisted Hence he conceived that natural urges, when identified as "wrong," may be repressed but not obliterated In the unconscious, these urges take on symbolic garb, regarded as nonsense by the waking mind that does not recognize their significance.
Again, it was the extent to which he developed a theory of how dreams work--and the extent to which that theory helped him, by analogy, to understand far more than just dreams--that made him unusual, important, and influential beyond the perimeters of medical schools and psychiatrists' offices. The psychoanalytic approach to literature not only rests on the theories of Freud; it may even be said to have begun with Freud, who was interested in writers, especially those who relied heavily on symbols.
Such writers regularly cloak or mystify ideas in figures that make sense only when interpreted, much as the unconscious mind of a neurotic disguises secret thoughts in dream stories or bizarre actions that need to be interpreted by an analyst. Freud's interest in literary artists led him to make some unfortunate generalizations about creativity; for example, in the twenty-third lecture in Introductoy Lectures on PsychoAnalysis , he defined the artist as "one urged on by instinctive needs that are too clamorous" But it also led him to write creative literary criticism of his own, including an influential essay on "The Relation of a Poet to Daydreaming" and "The Uncanny" , a provocative psychoanalytic reading of E.
Hoffman's supernatural tale "The Sandman. Freud's application of psychoanalytic theory to literature quickly caught on. In that work, Rank subscribes to the notion that the artist turns a powerful, secret wish into a literary fantasy, and he uses Freud's notion about the "oedipal" complex to explain why the popular stories of so many heroes in literature are so similar. A year after Rank had published his psychoanalytic account of heroic texts, Ernest Jones, Freud's student and eventual biographer, turned his attention to a tragic text: Shakespeare's Hamlet.
In an essay first published in the American Journal of Psychology , Jones, like Rank, makes use of the oedipal concept: he suggests that Hamlet is a victim of strong feelings toward his mother, the queen.
Between and numerous other critics decided that psychological and psychoanalytic theory could assist in the understanding of literature. Richards, Kenneth Burke, and Edmund Wilson were among the most influential to become interested in the new approach. Not all of the early critics were committed to the approach; neither were all of them Freudians.
Some followed Alfred Adler, who believed that writers wrote out of inferiority complexes, and others applied the ideas of Carl Gustav Jung, who had broken with Freud over Freud's emphasis on sex and who had developed a theory of the collective unconscious. According to Jungian theory, a great novel like Frankenstein is not a disguised expression of Mary Shelley's personal, repressed wishes; rather, it is a manifestation of desires once held by the whole human race but now repressed because of the advent of civilization.
It is important to point out that among those who relied on Freud's models were a number of critics who were poets and novelists as well. Auden applied Freudian insights when writing critical prose.
Sigmund Freud: 5 Lectures about Psychoanalysis
Lawrence, Marcel Proust, and Toni Morrison are only a few of the novelists who have either written criticism influenced by Freud or who have written novels that conceive of character, conflict, and creative writing itself in Freudian terms. The poet H.
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Hilda Doolittle was actually a patient of Freud's and provided an account of her analysis in her book Tribute to Freud. By giving Freudian theory credibility among students of literature that only they could bestow, such writers helped to endow psychoanalytic criticism with the largely Freudian orientation that, one could argue, it still exhibits today. The willingness, even eagerness, of writers to use Freudian models in producing literature and criticism of their own consummated a relationship that, to Freud and other pioneering psychoanalytic theorists, had seemed fated from the beginning; after all, therapy involves the dose analysis of language.
Rene Wellek and Austin Warren included "psychological" criticism as one of the five "extrinsic" approaches to literature described in their influential book, Theory of Literature Psychological criticism, they suggest, typically attempts to do at least one of the following: provide a psychological study of an individual writer; explore the nature of the creative process; generalize about "types and laws present within works of literature"; or theorize about the psychological "effects of literature upon its readers" Entire books on psychoanalytic criticism even began to appear, such as Frederick J.
Hoffman's Freudianism and the Literary Mind Probably because of Freud's characterization of the creative mind as "clamorous" if not ill, psychoanalytic criticism written before tended to psychoanalyze the individual author. Poems were read as fantasies that allowed authors to indulge repressed wishes, to protect themselves from deep-seated anxieties, or both. Bonaparte found Poe to be so fixated on his mother that his repressed longing emerges in his stories in images such as the white spot on a black cat's breast, said to represent mother's milk.
A later generation of psychoanalytic critics often paused to analyze the characters in novels and plays before proceeding to their authors. But not for long, since characters, both evil and good, tended to be seen by these critics as the author's potential selves, or projections of various repressed aspects of his or her psyche. For instance, in A Psychoanalytic Study of the Double in Literature , Robert Rogers begins with the view that human beings are double or multiple in nature. Using this assumption, along with the psychoanalytic concept of "dissociation" best known by its result, the dual or multiple personality , Rogers concludes that writers reveal instinctual or repressed selves in their books, often without realizing that they have done so.
In the view of critics attempting to arrive at more psychological insights into an author than biographical materials can provide, a work of literature is a fantasy or a dream--or at least so analogous to daydream or dream that Freudian analysis can help explain the nature of the mind that produced it. The author's purpose in writing is to gratify secretly some forbidden wish, in particular an infantile wish or desire that has been repressed into the unconscious mind.
To discover what the wish is, the psychoanalytic critic employs many of the terms and procedures developed by Freud to analyze dreams. The literal surface of a work is sometimes spoken of as its "manifest content" and treated as a "manifest dream" or "dream story" would be treated by a Freudian analyst. Just as the analyst tries to figure out the "dream thought" behind the dream story--that is, the latent or hidden content of the manifest dream--so the psychoanalytic literary critic tries to expose the latent, underlying content of a work.
Freud used the words condensation and displacement to explain two of the mental processes whereby the mind disguises its wishes and fears in dream stories. In condensation several thoughts or persons may be condensed into a single manifestation or image in a dream story; in displacement, an anxiety, a wish, or a person may be displaced onto the image of another, with which or whom it is loosely connected through a string of associations that only an analyst can untangle. Psychoanalytic critics treat metaphors as if they were dream condensations; they treat metonyms--figures of speech based on extremely loose, arbitrary associations--as if they were dream displacements.
Thus figurative literary language in general is treated as something that evolves as the writer's conscious mind resists what the unconscious tells it to picture or describe. A symbol is, in Daniel Weiss's words, "a meaningful concealment of truth as the truth promises to emerge as some frightening or forbidden idea" In a article entitled "The 'Unconscious' of Literature," Norman Holland, a literary critic trained in psychoanalysis, succinctly sums up the attitudes held by critics who would psychoanalyze authors, but without quite saying that it is the author that is being analyzed by the psychoanalytic critic.
By level I mean the familiar stages of childhood development--oral [when desires for nourishment and infantile sexual desires overlap], anal [when infants receive their primary pleasure from defecation], urethral [when urinary functions are the locus of sexual pleasure], phallic [when the penis or, in girls, some penis substitute is of primary interest], oedipal. While not denying the idea that the unconscious plays a role in creativity, psychoanalytic critics such as Holland began to focus more on the ways in which authors create works that appeal to our repressed wishes and fancies.
Consequently, they shifted their focus away from the psyche of the author and toward the psychology of the reader and the text. Holland's theories, which have concerned themselves more with the reader than with the text, have helped to establish another school of critical theory: reader-response criticism.
Elizabeth Wright explains Holland's brand of modern psychoanalytic criticism in this way: "What draws us as readers to a text is the secret expression of what we desire to hear, much as we protest we do not. The disguise must be good enough to fool the censor into thinking that the text is respectable, but bad enough to allow the unconscious to glimpse the unrespectable" Whereas Holland came increasingly to focus on the reader rather than on the work being read, others who turned away from character and author diagnosis preferred to concentrate on texts; they remained skeptical that readers regularly fulfill wishes by reading.
Following the theories of D. Winnicott, a psychoanalytic theorist who has argued that even babies have relationships as well as raw wishes, these textually oriented psychoanalytic critics contend that the relationship between reader and text depends greatly on the text. To be sure, some works fulfill the reader's secret wishes, but others--maybe most--do not. The texts created by some authors effectively resist the reader's involvement. In determining the nature of the text, such critics may regard the text in terms of a dream.
But no longer do they assume that dreams are meaningful in the way that works of literature are. Rather, they assume something more complex.
Dreams are viewed more as a language than as symptoms of repression. In fact, the French structuralist psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan treats the unconscious as a language, a form of discourse. Thus we may study dreams psychoanalytically in order to learn about literature, even as we may study literature in order to learn more about the unconscious. In Lacan's seminar on Poe's "The Purloined Letter," a pattern of repetition like that used by psychoanalysts in their analyses is used to arrive at a reading of the story.
According to Wright, "the new psychoanalytic structural approach to literature" employs "analogies from psychoanalysis.
Lacan, however, did far more than extend Freud's theory of dreams, literature, and the interpretation of both. More significantly, he took Freud's whole theory of psyche and gender and added to it a crucial third term--that of language.
In the process, he used but adapted Freud's ideas about the oedipal complex and oedipal stage, both of which Freud saw as crucial to the development of the child, and especially of male children. Lacan points out that the pre-oedipal stage, in which the child at first does not even recognize its independence from its mother, is also a preverbal stage, one in which the child communicates without the medium of language, or--if we insist upon calling the child's communications a language--in a language that can only be called literal.
Then, while still in the pre-oedipal stage, the child enters the mirror stage. During the mirror period, the child comes to recognize itself and its mother, later other people as well, as independent selves. This is the stage in which the child is first able to fear the aggressions of another, desire what is recognizably beyond the self initially the mother , and, finally, to want to compete with another for the same, desired object.
This is also the stage at which the child first becomes able to feel sympathy with another being who is being hurt by a third--to cry, in other words, when another cries. All of these developments, of course, involve projecting beyond the self and, by extension, being able to envision one's own self or "ego" or "I" as others view one--that is, as another.
For these reasons, Lacan refers to the mirror stage as the Imaginary stage. The Imaginary stage, however, is usually superseded. It normally ends with the onset of the oedipal stage, which it makes possible.
Freud is back
The Imaginary stage makes possible the oedipal stage insofar as it makes possible not only desire and fear of another but also the sense of another as a rival. The oedipal stage, as in Freud, begins when the child, having recognized the self as self and the father and mother as separate selves, recognizes gender and gender differences between its parents and between itself and one of its parents. For boys, that recognition involves another, more powerful recognition, for the recognition of the father's phallus as the mark of his difference from the mother involves, at the same time, the recognition that his older and more powerful father is also his rival.
That, in turn, leads to the understanding that what once seemed wholly his and even undistinguishable from himself is in fact someone else's: something properly to be desired only at a greater distance and in the form of socially acceptable substitutes. Freud stimulates us to think about the messiness.
Freud and Jesus are wonderful Iconic myths. Both were bombastic and in our society that always receives much attention.
Freud rarely helped his patients and even harmed them. He also blamed them for their shame and guilt. That Jesus fellow just couldn't find the time to write anything down,I guess he was too busy for that.
THREE ESSAYS ON THE THEORY OF SEXUALITY
I too, as a previous poster said, "disagree with most of Freud's theories such as the oedipus complex and the psychosexual stages" and am none too impressed by the notion of a death wish. Having said that I go with the flow that his contribution and influence on the developments in the field of psychotherapy in the 20th Century was more that merely that of an "iconic myth" On the subject of icons, for those among psychotherapists and clients who may feel a strong wish for the death of Freud, here is the blurb from a very well written and enjoyable book that is well worth the read by Todd Dufresne that is titled.
The critique ranges across the strange case of Anna O, the hysteria of Josef Breuer, the love of dogs, the Freud industry, the role of gossip and fiction, bad manners, pop psychology and French philosophy, figure skating on thin ice, and contemporary therapy culture. A map to the Freudian minefield and a masterful negotiation of high theory and low culture, "Killing Freud" is a revaluation of psychoanalysis and its real place in 20th-century history. It should appeal to anyone curious about the life of the mind after the death of Freud.
Grimes from Tokyo, Thank you for your comments. They inspire me to think some more. I appreciate you pointing me to further reading. Thanks Again! If we're saying his doing it poorly made others want to do it better-I'm on board. I believe any who tries hard deserves credit for trying but he still got it wrong. If people want to say he was wrong and inspirational that's fine but still confusing. Great to hear the comments, specially David Petropoulos and realize I am not the only one "not getting it" when it comes to agreeing with Freud's ideas.