Published in: Interpretations. European Research Project for Poetics and Hermeneutics Volumes No. 4/5, Edited by Katica Kjulafkova and Natasha Avramovska, Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Skopje, 2011, 237-263.
Jasna Koteska (Skopje)
THEORETICAL PSYCHOANALYSIS AND LITERATURE
Key words: psychoanalysis and literature, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, subject, metaphor, metonymy, the unconscious, symptom.
The second half of the 20th century was marked by an intensive migration of academic psychoanalysis from departments of psychology to departments of literature and philosophy. In
America and Europe
today, those who would like to read Freud and Lacan enrol in comparative
literature studies. Psychology departments study Freud only as a historical
reference, while the opposite is true of literary studies. Psychoanalysis can
often be found behind the most inventive literary interpretations and is widely
utilized in literature classes. The logic behind this breakthrough of
psychoanalysis into literary studies can hardly be explained solely by the fact
that literature is a product of the mind, for literary works are far more than
merely psychological phenomena. Different disciplines have dominated literary studies
in different epochs: history dominated nineteenth century philology,
linguistics dominated structuralism, etc. The task, then, is to identify which
processes caused this merger of literary studies and psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis is a historically defined discipline. It emerged in the 19th century with the ever-growing need to analyze the notion of the subject, which is of central importance to literature.1 The notion of the subject is complex and has different meanings in different disciplines. In philosophy, the subject denotes either a) the substance of a thing, or b) consciousness, i.e. the phenomena of thinking and feeling, as opposed to non-consciousness. In logic, the subject is a constituent of a proposition, while in grammar the subject is either a noun or a substantive of the verb. Psychoanalysis recognizes the subject as a sum of signifiers. The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), defined the subject in linguistic terms. He understood it not as a soul, shadow or double, nor as a certain psycho-sphere operating as an armour for the being, nor as a quality of the order of phantom metaphors (a notion which Freud found most objectionable in Jung), but as a sum of signifiers. His most famous follower, the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901–1981), further developed this Freudian line through Ferdinand de Saussure’s scheme of the sign. Lacan amended Freudian premises on the subject, locating it outside the dimensions of quantity and measure, outside of Cartesian space. For Lacan, the subject is constituted as a certain space-interval between perception, as the lower limit of the subject, and consciousness, as its upper limit (Lacan, 1986, 51–2). According to Lacan, exchanges between perception and consciousness are subject to causal laws; and these causal laws, without exception are linguistic laws. Such exchanges occur either in the form of associations from the axis of synchrony (metonymies), or as analogies through the functions of contrast and similarity from the axis of diachrony (metaphors) (Lacan, 1986, 52). Thus, on a deeper level, psychoanalysis and literature share more common qualities than might appear at first glance. In his Seminar from 1954-55, Lacan claims that if anyone has anything to say about language it is psychoanalysts. (Lacan, 1991, 119). Psychoanalysis analyzes a patient’s speech; it works with words and thus has much to say about linguistic creations.
In his pioneering book, Problems in General Linguistics, the French linguist, Émile Benveniste shed light on the paradoxical relationship between the psychoanalyst and speech. Even though psychoanalysts can avail themselves only of the material which their analysands convey to them, what the analysands actually say is not of primary importance; for the hypothesis is that the important material lies not in what has been said but in what is hidden—actual speech is treated as being little more than chatter. The subject utilizes speech to affirm itself. But subjects always self-historize themselves in incomplete and falsified histories; the analyst discovers a dichotomy between the subject’s speech and the gap in that speech, and it is in this gap that the analyst discovers another history different to the one told him by the subject (Benveniste, 1975, 80–82). It is of great significance to psychoanalysis that the subject cannot be ‘translated’ into speech, that the subject is in a certain sense a ‘mute subject’ as long as his or her unconscious has not expressed itself through certain symptoms: paralysis, slips of the tongue, jokes, dreams. In other words, the psychoanalyst treats the subject’s speech as a sort of alibi or linguistic mask, and treatment consists of searching for the unsaid. This combination (relating unimportant experiences and unintentionally passing over important experiences) constructs the subject’s fabular behaviour and the psychoanalyst’s job is to interpret this fabular behaviour and transform it into new speech which then becomes more important than the subject’s speech. And this is equivalent to literary exegesis. We need only recall a typical question of literature classes, ‘What did the writer want to say?’, and we will recognize it as a question in psychoanalytical register. The most successful interpretations often involve searching for hidden meanings in texts: not the meaning of what has been said but the meaning of what has been left unsaid in the text. Such interpretations go beyond the text to seek out where real textual meanings are concealed.
Psychoanalysis builds upon the basic postulate that symptoms manifest in a subject’s behaviour (Freud, 1969b, 145), symptoms being the mother of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis does not focus on relatively stable subjects as the centre of its interest, but on extreme states of the psyche in which symptoms are more manifest, in order to ascertain the subject’s limits and capacities. (Such an approach has a long history: various peoples have developed deference for the mentally ill because they ‘bring to the surface’ the states we all have ‘inside’). Psychoanalysis is constructed around the observation of the resistance which occurs when the subject attempts to transform his or her unconscious into conscious articulation. We can only guess at the contents of the unconscious: we know nothing about it, but these contents appear as latent in slips of the tongue, dreams, jokes, somatic paralysis, etc. In other words, neurotic symptoms originate mostly in the unconscious, which is open to the somatic, and emerge in the form of physical blocks.
One of the affinities of psychoanalysis with literature is based on this very postulation that every speech hides a symptom, and literature exhibits the symptoms around which a subject’s behaviour is built. This was masterfully demonstrated by Lacan in his reading of Sophocles’s Antigone (Lacan, 1997, 270–283). Analyzing Creon’s behaviour, Lacan claims that Creon is capable of anything: ‘He is never left without resources, whatever he has to face,’ but ‘death is one thing that Creon does not know how to face.’ (Lacan, 1997, 275). And this is where the main point emerges, expressed by the chorus and considered by Lacan to be an epochal discovery of the 5th century BC: Creon fails to reconcile himself to death but invents the ‘amazing trick’ of finding ‘refuge in an impossible illness’—an illness Creon fabricates himself. This discovery expresses what psychoanalysis would achieve centuries later and Lacan finds it astonishing that this notion is expressed in 441 BC as one of the essential dimensions of humanity (Lacan 1997, 275). Individuals develop symptoms whenever they cannot face the ultimate questions of their existence, death being the most ultimate. Psychoanalysis is developed around these types of ‘illnesses’ which are not in fact illnesses but symptoms.
Psychoanalysis begins with the idea that ‘words can heal’, a thesis of the first patient of psychoanalysis, Bertha Pappenheim, a well-known Austrian writer and feminist whose therapy was conducted under the pseudonym Anna O. Her neurotic symptoms were treated in the course of two years between 1880 and 1882 by Sigmund Freud’s teacher, the Austrian doctor Joseph Breuer (1842–1925). The clinical material produced during the treatment of Anna O served as a basis for the first ever written psychoanalytic study of hysteria, co-authored by Breuer and Freud. During one session, in order to explain the verbal exchange and free associations accruing between herself and her analyst, Bertha Pappenheim introduced the term ‘talking cure’, which Freud later adopted and developed into what we today know as psychoanalysis. Bertha Pappenheim was the first to observe that physical (somatic) problems can be cured with words, with speech. It should be noted that the brilliancy and eloquence of Freud’s first patients—Anna O, Dora, and others—contributed towards the establishment of psychoanalysis as an efficient method. Elisabeth Grosz says that, in a certain manner, psychoanalysis is derived from the female desire to articulate its own fantasies, yearnings and hopes and from Freud’s desire to hear them (Grosz, 1990, 6). The advantages of this exchange, however, were not equally distributed, women deriving significantly less from this exchange than psychoanalysis itself. Still, psychoanalysis remains one of the rare branches of the humanities offering active insight into female identity, libido and subjectivity, which is something that cannot be attributed to other social studies trapped in their patriarchal norms.
Prior to Freud, in the 19th century, neurosis was treated with techniques devised by the controversial Parisian neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (1825–1893). He treated hysteria with rough methods, showing his female patients in public during his lectures in medical amphitheatres. He was also a passionate collector of photographs of hysterical bodies and considered the look in a patient’s eyes as a primary medium for obtaining knowledge. Freud’s intuition told him the opposite: that neuroses can be treated more efficiently if a patient’s look is replaced by speech, i.e. that neuroses manifests itself more obviously if the patient is left to speak and articulate their desires. Freud was the first to say that neuroses had unconscious functions and that the unconscious played a significant role. Even though dream interpretation had a long tradition among many peoples before the advent of psychoanalysis, Freud abandoned the traditional approach to dreams and their symbols and offered a systematic insight into the signifying function of dreams.
By 1885, Freud had published his first findings about neurosis emerging through speech and dreams. And by 1889 he had completely substituted hypnosis—a very popular tool at the time—with verbal techniques: he left his patients to speak in free associations, himself always seated outside the patient’s field of vision, eliminating the look (as a privileged sense) in favour of speech as a preferred medium, thus making speech central to psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis ‘complicates’ speech, burdens it with meanings, so that complication allows for the emergence of the problem, so that the problem acquires generic structures which condition the truth for the subject.
The relationship between literature and psychoanalysis was inherent in the very beginnings of psychoanalysis, and this disciplinary coupling began with the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, who wrote extensively about literature, mostly in the manner of the classical German tradition.2 From Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex, Freud derived his central theory about the Oedipal complex. According to Freud, the Oedipal complex occurs between the third and fifth year of a child’s life, during what Freud calls the phallic stage, the last of the three developmental stages—oral, anal and phallic—when the child first chooses his mother as an object of his desires but, fearing his father’s anger and fantasizing that his father will castrate him, relinquishes his desire for his mother. With this act the child accepts that, in order to be able to function in the world, he will have to adopt the rules of his father’s order; that is, he has to enter a symbolic order governed by rules, laws and institutions. This is how the child develops a super ego.
Freud developed a theory of a three tier structure of the psyche. According to Freud, the psyche consists of the super ego, the ego and the id. Freud was the first neurologist to take persecution mania seriously and, on the basis of clinical research on paranoia, he arrived at the conclusion that patients rightfully complain about being stalked by unknown forces telling them what to do. This was common to all people, but some consciously separated it from their self and this is what Freud called the super ego. The function of the super ego is to be the conscience. This conscience, however, has little to do with the principle of morality which, according to Freud, is only a periodical phenomenon for the super ego. The super ego is characterized by strictness and cruelty, with a parental function developed in close relation to the Oedipal complex. And even though we admire the ego as the conscious part of the human personality, the ego is much weaker than the super ego in the sense of dynamics and has to follow the super ego’s orders. The ego is also weaker than the third part, the id, characterized by amorality and in constant search of libidinal, unlimited pleasures. Crucified between the shameless libidinal id and the limitations of the super ego, the conscious ego is in constant tension and often suffers failures in its equilibration between the two, making people complain that life is hard.
In his most widely read study, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), Freud introduced two principles: the principle of pleasure and the principle of reality. For Freud, reality is characterized by de-sexualisation. Even though all the subject wants is pleasure, this drive for pleasure must constantly be tamed, since civilization is asexual and demands the sacrifice of individual desires, and demands compromises so that life becomes more bearable for all. This is why the subject is forced to trade off, to calculate possible losses against possible gains with the aim of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. In Freud’s words, the ego mostly trades off with reality in favour of the id (Freud, 1969b, 168).
Freud considered the narrative of the Oedipal complex as a nucleus behind all human creation: behind myths, literature, religion and philosophy. Freud’s central theory of sublimation arose from his insights into literary creation. Owing to cultural inhibitions which prevent the subject from fully expressing his or her erotic energy, the psyche adopts various defence mechanisms in the battle waged between its own tension-ridden psychic structures (the ego crucified between the id and the super ego, whereby the id pulls the ego towards pleasures and the supper ego towards punishments). These processes are called sublimation. The best sublimating mechanism, according to Freud, is art, which transforms the libido into a socially acceptable activity. Freud was also the first to establish a crucial method of psychoanalysis: to utilize literary examples to illustrate psychoanalytical theories. Freud treated texts as a kind of dream and wrote that the unconscious of the writer and the reader recognize each other through shared neuroses. On the other hand, Freud was not interested in aesthetics as much as he was interested in the psychology and psychopathology of creativity; his literary essays resemble detective stories in which he reconstructs the psyche of great authors with the aim of discovering the enigma of their creativity. In his essays on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, for example, Freud describes creativity as an adult continuation of the child’s curiosity about sexuality. This approach later led to a proliferation of psycho-biographies by post-Freudians. The influence of neuroses on artists was discussed by the likes of Otto Rank, Carl Gustav Jung, Erich Fromm, Ernest Jones and Theodor Reik, who focused on the mysteries of creation in the works of Dostoyevsky, Swift, Kafka and others. All Freud’s disciples were passionate readers of literature. One of Freud’s most famous followers, Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961) combined his literary interests with Claude Levi-Strauss’s structural anthropology, leading to the development of an entire field of myth criticism and the identification of archetypes. Otto Rank (1884–1939) developed a theory about ‘The Trauma of Birth’ (1924) which helped him explain all psychological and psychopathological conduct. Unlike Freud, who believed that the key to all human creation was to be found in the Oedipal complex, Otto Rank was the first to introduce the notion of a pre-Oedipal stage and believed that human creations had their source in the earliest childhood stage, a line later followed by Melanie Klein and Julia Kristeva.
In contemporary psychoanalysis, Lacanians appear to be the most numerous. Lacan himself made numerous literary references to Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Camus, Poe and others; and Lacan’s literary style of argumentation, sophisticated erudition and literary passages in his well known Seminars (lasting for 26 years, uninterrupted, from 1956), he contributed significantly towards the mutual development of literature and psychoanalysis. Lacan’s observation that ‘the unconscious is structured as a language’ generated numerous complex narrative and poetic analyses of literary works and thus led to a partial abandonment of the dubious practice of speculations in psycho-biographies. His writing style influenced contemporary psychoanalysis in such a manner that it now often resembles literary theories. Lacan turned psychoanalysis into a valid tool in the fields of linguistics, literary theory, sociology, philosophy and feminism. The Gothic quality of his style (unlike the systematic, patient and careful Freud, who positioned himself in psychoanalysis as a physician and was inclined to consider psychoanalysis a science most closely related to medicine) led to a greater application of psychoanalysis in the humanities. Lacan does not renounce Freud in any key areas, but differences between them do exist. Lacan is an extreme Freudian, a commentator on the most radical and often passed-over places in Freud’s works, and this led to separation of psychoanalysis from Freud’s biologism. Lacan is a structuralist and a linguist and in his texts he overcomes Freud’s obsolete concepts of penis envy, female castration, etc. Lacan understood psychoanalysis as a textual study which needs to be separate from the actual living patient. Thus he transformed psychoanalysis into a philological discipline and here lies the key to its association with literary studies. At the same time, Lacan did not parasitize on Freud in the sense that there was nothing new in his work, as claimed by Grosz (Grosz, 1990, 9). Rather, Lacan took over Freud’s most radical aspects which then paradoxically saved Freud from his own followers. Lacan was the first to suggest reading Freud’s work as symptoms.
Lacan expands the Freudian triple structure of the psyche—the super ego, ego and id—into a theory of three planes: imaginary, symbolic and real. The imaginary is non-linguistic according to Lacan and the subject lives in it before becoming a speaking subject, before mastering language, i.e. up to the second year of life. (Kristeva terms this stage the semiotic). The symbolic plane is communal and is characterized by rules and norms of behaviour, but it is also imaginary because there are no real things in it, only their replacements (language does not consist of real things, only their representation). The hard core of the real constantly escapes symbolization. And since speech does not ‘carry’ the true nature of things but is barely their representation, it is ambivalent and makes people unable to oblige themselves to always and fully respect the promises they have made. This implies that speech is false (Plato’s dialogue Cratylus treats the same issue of the ‘truthfulness’ of language) and, according to Lacan, every speech should be treated as ‘empty speech’. Lacan develops his concept of the symbolic in one of his seminars from 1953 and in it he defines the symbolic as a law which regulates desire but is separate from both biology and social reality. The symbolic position of the father, for example, must not be confused with the life of an actual father. Lacan’s term symbolic does not directly relate to the long tradition of the terms symbol and symbolism in literary theory. The term symbol, derived form the Greek ‘symbolon’—‘a document, a sign of recognition or legitimization’ in its original meaning—is closely related to the symbolic as a place of recognition, signifying, and univocality; but this term in Lacan’s works is not related to Neo-Platonist philosophy where the symbol is a sign which originates in the metaphysical world and becomes visible in the material world. For Lacan, the symbolic does not have religious or metaphysical connotations, only cultural and psychoanalytical. It is more likely derived from the aesthetics of modern times, where the term symbol is associated with language as a system and literary theory accepts it as such and utilizes it as a term for a stylistic figure and also to denote a literary movement from the end of the 19th century. Lacan’s symbolic was most harshly criticized by feminist critics: Judith Butler attacked Lacan’s symbolic as quasi-timeless, asserting that there was no difference between the symbolic and the social law as the symbolic is a sedimentation of social practices (
, 2000, 17–21). The
third plane, that of the real, is the most difficult to explain, and Lacan
himself attempted its definition in his late works by applying mathemes. The
real is the place where the essence of the world and life is located, and the
real is always and without exception manifested as a trauma, which occurs as
what Lacan used to call ‘the strike of the real’ through a gap in the symbolic,
fatherly order. Butler
Lacan was a great compiler of psychoanalysis and linguistics (mostly referring to Saussure) and he is one of the psychoanalysts most influential in the breakthrough of psychoanalysis in literature and humanities departments. Many books have been written about the relation between literature and psychoanalysis, and according to the editors of the anthology Literature and Psychoanalysis (1983) a common feature of all these relations is that they do not share a common feature (Kurzweil & Phillips, 1983, 2). In the course of the 20th century, writers’ interest in psychoanalysis was also on the rise (one of the first great writers to show interest was Thomas Mann), as was the interest of feminism. Julia Kristeva (1941), Luce Irigaray (1932) and Hélène Cixous (1937) are only a few of the French theoreticians who combine literature and psychoanalysis.
The most obvious relation between psychoanalytical and literary interpretation can be discovered in the analysis of dreams as a realm where the unconscious is manifested. The unconscious is one of the great themes of psychoanalysis and is Freud’s greatest discovery. Even though the existence of the unconscious was noted in psychological literature preceding Freud, it was with him that the unconscious obtained a concrete form. ‘What is in the unconscious?’ asked Freud, and answered that, while its contents are unrealized, this does not imply they are unreal. When Freud discusses the gap in the unconscious, he uses the metaphor ‘a navel of dreams’ as a symbol of the anatomic gap in the human soul (Lacan, 1986, 29). That gap is daemonic, yet the Freudian unconscious is not mystical but linguistic. Lacan wrote that Freud was one of the few, if not the only one, to attempt to embody psychic reality without its substantialization (Lacan, 1986, 81). Freud never describes the unconscious, and describes its content as unavailable in time (and in space); but the unconscious has both logical and grammatical time. This, however does not imply that literature can be equated with dreams; above all because literary creation requires a conscious effort which cannot be said of dreams (Eagleton, 2000, 188). One operational similarity could be that, in dreams, desires are either condensed in one single image (which is the same operation as that of the metaphor) or transformed—that is to say, the meaning of one desire is dislocated from one object onto another (the same operation as that of metonymy). The acts of condensing and dislocating meaning match the two basic operations of human language: metaphor (as an operation of similarity) and metonymy (as an operation of contiguity) as explained by Roman Jakobson (Eagleton, 200, 166). It is general knowledge that the literary text in which the fictional universe is generated has its own special rules adopted from linguistics; but these same linguistic rules apply in the psychoanalytical interpretation of symptoms, jokes, slips of the tongue and, above all, dreams as places where the unconscious emerges. Thus these two great domains can be of mutual advantage to each other. In his analysis of the relations between psychoanalysis and literature, Terry Eagleton claims that the best way to carry out a textual and formal analysis of literary works is when psychoanalysis is engaged in detecting a text within the text through reading the ‘symptomatic’ places of ambiguity where the author avoids or consciously overemphasizes a given topic. These places can be termed ‘the unconscious’ of the work itself; they are the unsaid and ‘suppressed’ places in the text. (Eagleton, 2000, 187–188). However, at the same time, one must be careful when applying Freudian dream interpretations in literature, especially if one takes into account Freud’s thesis in his The Interpretation of Dreams that dreams do not express categories…that dreams ignore ‘no’. Emile Benveniste warned against such epistemology, observing that there is no language in which one term expresses simultaneously both the thing and its opposite: ‘If there is a language in which both large and small are expressed in the same manner, that would be a language in which the differentiation between large and small would make no sense and where the category of dimension would not exist.’ (Benveniste, 1975, 88) Yet Benveniste did not completely deny the possibility of interpreting the unconscious linguistically. Lacan, as a ‘radical Freud’, put forward the thesis that the unconscious was structured like a language. On the basis of this assertion, Benveniste later developed his theory about the unconscious manifested as both infra-linguistic and supra-linguistic. It is infra-linguistic because it is deeper than the place where the linguistic mechanism is established (according to Benveniste, the unconscious is more a style than a language) and at the same time the unconscious is supra-linguistic because it utilizes condensed signs, equivalent to large units of speech rather than minimal linguistic units. (Benveniste, 1975, 90).
The unconscious is the main reason why psychoanalysis faced so much resistance from its very beginnings and why the attribute ‘scandalous’ has followed psychoanalysis to the present day. Throughout all his years of analytical and therapeutic activity, Freud complained of the ‘amazing isolation’ of his work. In the course of time, he also lost the sympathies of his closest associates, such as Fliess, Abraham, Jung, Rank, Adler and Breuer. (Some abandoned him for the sake of creating their own version of psychoanalysis, such as Jung.) The most widespread rejection of psychoanalysis is owed not to the usual belief that people objected to sexuality in Freud’s elaborations, nor to his insistence that all human motives are sexual (where Freud is concerned, this topic is most often exploited by the media and Hollywood), but to Freud’s hypothesis that the unconscious is completely inaccessible to consciousness, that the subject is radically unable to know oneself. This finding, and not sexuality, was the main reason behind resistance to psychoanalysis. It does not shock us that Freud discovered that all our motives are sexual but that he discovered something far more catastrophic for humanity: that the subject is not responsible for himself or herself! Prior to Freud, the most prominent interpreter of the subject was René Descartes, known for his doctrine of scepticism. Descartes believed that the subject can doubt everything: the existence of the world, history, other people, even himself; but as long as the subjects doubts, he thinks, and if he thinks, than he exists (cogito, ergo sum). Thinking thus becomes the only guarantee of existence. Freud threw an unpleasant light on Descartes’s consolation, proclaiming Descartes’s ‘I think’ as inconceivable. Freud claimed: Yes, I certainly think, but in the background of my thinking lies an enormous unconscious which is the largest constituent of my ‘I exist’. Hence, thinking becomes irrelevant to one’s certainty (Lacan, 1986, 164). This led to essential epistemological shifts concerning the subject’s certainty. If the unconscious consists of erasing signifiers, then the subject cannot guarantee itself through thinking. In order for the self to exist, there must exist a guarantee on the outside which would guarantee the subject, and this can happen only through the gaze of the other. At this point, Freud’s successor, Lacan, positioned his well known thesis that, in order for the ‘I’ to exist, there must also exist the Other which confirms the ‘I’. Lacan says: ‘I can only suggest the amazing consequence of this placement of the truth in the hands of the Other, a perfect god in this case, whose job is the truth, because, whatever he wished to say, everything would be true, even if he said that two and two is five, that would also be the truth.’ (Lacan, 1985, 42) If psychoanalysis is asymmetric to Cartesian thought, it is so because psychoanalysis finds the transfer between the subject and the Other important. The Other becomes the only measure of the subject’s certainty, and from this premise Lacan arrived at his most famous thesis that the subject’s desire is the desire of the Other! (Lacan, 1986, 44). This superiority of the Other over the subject is a direct result of the unconscious as the largest constituent of the content of the psyche.
Both literature and psychoanalysis are obsessed with the issue of motivation. Freud searched for the first and original motivation which would explain how the subject developed trauma and identify which impulse first set in motion the original morbid, pathological process; for this process will become clearer once the past point has been reached. Motivation is important in literary studies not only as a tool for analyzing characters but also as a tool to differentiate among stylistic formations (let us recall the difference which Roman Jakobson established between romantic and realistic discourse in his 1921 essay On Realism in Art: motivation in romantic discourse is delayed, obscured, unclear or annulled, while in the realistic discourse the entire narration can often be reduced to the issue of motivation—as in Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment of 1866 whose entire narration is a broad explication of the philosophical, social, psychological and familial motives behind Raskolnikov’s crime). But its meaning can become more complex. If we ask ourselves the obvious question as to why Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915) wakes up one morning as a bug, we shall find that Kafka’ text lacks the initial motivation—the text does not offer any explanation for the metamorphosis. Psychoanalysis, however, can offer alternative readings which discover in the text what the text itself has passed over, omitted. One of the psychoanalytic explanations is that the father and son are constantly rotating around the emptied position of the patriarch, and when the father retires, Gregor Samsa must work hard to become the father instead of his father; but owing to the great efforts of the task, Samsa retreats, which psychoanalysis explains as an infantile attitude of the subject toward the patriarchal world. That is why Samsa ‘adopts’ the logic of a bug and, as a bug, unconsciously carries out a terrorist attack on the generational change. Only as a bug can he fully eliminate this patriarchal rotation and make future procreation impossible. In other words, Samsa’s metamorphosis, one of the greatest literary puzzles of the 20th century, obtains its plausible explanation only through psychoanalysis.
Freud’s most famous theory is that concerning the unconscious, while Lacan’s most famous autonomous concept is his theory of the mirror stage, developed c.1936. According to Lacan’s theory, newborn babies, around the sixth month of their life, while held in their mother’s arms, see their reflection in the mirror and for the first time automatically get an idea of themselves. Their psyche still weak and vulnerable, in this ‘starry spectacle’ babies perceive their stable, complete and unique reflections in the mirror which will later turn into ideals to be achieved for the rest of their lives. The I remains divided between itself and the image of itself in the mirror. Eagleton has discovered a symmetry between Lacan’s mirror stage and Saussure’s sign structure. The meaning of I develops as the first in the line of all possible meanings in the world: the mirror in which the child reflects functions as the signifier (something capable of giving meaning), and the image in the mirror is the signified. The moment the child enters the symbolic order through the mirror stage is marked by two principles of central importance to language: the first is the principle of exclusion (the child must not be its mother’s lover), the second is the principle of absence (the child must cut its bond with the mother’s body). The child’s formation as a subject is related to the establishment of relationships of difference and similarity with the other subjects around it. (Eagleton, 2000, 176). This is identical to the processes on the basis of which language operates. Objects are absent from the language which denotes them, but words gain their meaning through processes of exclusion and the absence of other signs. Language is a realm in which we are excluded from reality; for reality exists outside language. In search of the object from which we have been excluded and to which we can never return (the mother’s body), we, as subjects, satisfy ourselves with a number of objects which Lacan called objects petit a. By object petit a Lacan denotes the imaginary elements of fantasy which are preferred and which emerge in the primitive separation. Lacan cites the example of envy to show how the object petit a operates. Envy is triggered by the image of someone in possession of a good which, though it may be of no use to me, makes me pale at the thought of someone else having it instead of me. The object petit a is separated from me as if belonging to the other, and that is why, according to Lacan, the object petit a is the eternal missing object, the presence of absence itself. Eagleton associates Lacan’s object petit a with the discursive nature of linguistics. According to Eagleton, we move along from replacements towards replacements of replacements, from metaphors towards metaphors of metaphors, unable to renew our own pure (albeit fictitious) identity (Eagleton, 2000, 177). In psychoanalysis, the moment when the child adopts language concurs with the moment when the child enters the Oedipal stage. This entails that the discovery of language is associated with becoming aware that the sign involves the absence of the object it signifies. Our language replaces objects: in a very clear way, language is completely ‘metaphorical’ because it functions as a replacement for certain non-verbal objects—that is, it performs verbal possession of those objects (Eagleton, 200, 175).
Tzvetan Todorov answers the question as to why we know nothing about the song of the Sirens with the claim that the song of the Sirens does not actually exist, that the sirens only told Odysseus one thing—that they sing; in other words, instead of a song, they offered him only a self-referential commentary that they sing, and that that is all their song consists of. According to Todorov, this was done to avoid the Sirens being closely related to death, bearing in mind that the Sirens had to kill anyone who heard their song. If they failed to seduce their prey, they were forced to commit suicide. To avoid death, either in the form of murder or suicide, the Sirens consciously give up the song. In other words, in order for the poetry to exist, life must disappear. The Sirens here denote the world before its symbolization, before the possibility of singing (which differentiates them from the Muses, for example, who have retained the memory of the creative process). The Sirens are a metaphor of the traumatic world without memory and, according to psychoanalysis, it is this type of memory that constitutes the traumatic subject: the subject always returns to the trauma of the past but can never grasp this trauma with words—words always fail to articulate the meaning. And while the Muses help forget the trauma so that the creative process can start, the Sirens denote the Lacanian Real, the world before articulation, before symbolization. In other words, psychoanalysis is interested in the same type of signifying practices which make literature possible: the world which avoids the traumatic song (of the Sirens) in order to make the song of the Muses possible, the world of symbolization. In his later life, Lacan was completely preoccupied with these problems of writing: what the conditions were for its appearance and existence; what the world was like before symbolization; and mostly, what the status of writing was in literary history.
Eagleton drew a parallel between the laws of the literary text and the well- known Freudian anecdote about fort-da. We may refer here to Tzvetan Todorov’s theory that an ‘ideal text’ would be one in which the initial balance is disturbed by a dynamic motif, followed by descent into disorder and, once troubles are eliminated, the contract restored and harmony established anew, the new balance is never the same as the first. This is similar to Freud’s fort-da narrative. What does it consist of? Freud noticed once that his grandson was playing in his perambulator by throwing the toy out of the perambulator and saying ‘fort’ (‘gone’ in German) and then puling it back by its string and saying ‘da’ (‘here’ in German). Freud analyzed this fort-da game as a symbolic mastering of the absence of the mother, this being the stage of the first announcements of narrativeness. Eagleton says that Fort-da is probably the shortest story we could invent: it is a story of the object lost and then found. However, even the most complicated narrations can be read as variants of this model: the model of classic narration consists of an expression whose initial balance is disturbed and then re-established (Eagleton, 2000, 194). In other words, every story progresses as a search for something lost. On the basis of his analysis of Russian magical folk tales, the Russian formalist Vladimir Propp reached the same conclusion. In his book The Morphology of Folk Tales (1928), he demonstrated that all tales are variants of one general theme which moves from one initial harmony towards descent into a disharmony which initiates a search that is the main motif of the progression of the story, ending with the restoration of harmony.
In his eleventh seminar, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (1973), Lacan attacked the classical interpretation of the fort-da narration. It is misguided to believe—says Lacan—that in this case the subject establishes its function of mastery. If the young subject can surrender to the fort-da game, it is precisely because the child does not actually surrender, since no subject can reach such radical articulation (Lacan 1986, 255). The child can surrender to this radical game only with the help of the object petit a. The child cannot endlessly repeat a game in which it loses—and then wins again—its own mother, because such repetition would cause a traumatisation of the subject which no child can tolerate. This is why, according to Lacan, the child does not play at the level of fort-da but only at the level of fort. This is not a game of the symbolic loss of the desired object (the mother). What the subject alienates is exclusively ‘parts’ of itself. The child is radically dependent on the other, on the mother, who guarantees the child. If the mother disappears (the other), the child also disappears radically. The child can play this game only at the level of a symbolic departure of parts which constitute I: now, this part of me will go, but I am still here, now this other part of me will go, but I am still here, etc. In the endlessness of the game, the child understands that I am despite the periodic shake-ups of stability, i.e. the child learns that a stable subject does not exist. These symbolic disappearances of parts of me are bearable precisely because the guarantee that I exist has not disappeared; the other who guarantees me has not disappeared. The other is the one I must not lose. In psychoanalysis, Ernest Jones introduced the term aphanasis (αφανασισ) to denote the subject which loses itself constantly in a symbolic sense but still sees itself in the field of the other (Lacan, 1986, 233). Since the other is also a subject in relation to some other signifier, a circular relationship develops between the subject and the other— but this is an asymmetrical relationship. The chain of signifiers on which the subject depends is positioned in the other, who in turn is a subject who depends on some other-other. This state leads to the effect of a subject being lost—to Jones’s aphanasis—and it is this lesson the child learns in the fort-da game when it observes the symbolic I constantly disappearing in this circular relationship of certainty towards the other while this certainty is nevertheless here, precisely because it is always guaranteed by the other. When the child asks why, it does not ask because of its hunger for knowledge or for any specific reason, says Lacan (1986, 229). All children’s whys are temptations of the adult. What the child is asking is ‘are they going to lose me’, says Lacan. This type of phantasm of death is born owing to the fact that the loss of the other is simultaneously a loss of my certainty. Lacan’s revision dealt an essential blow to misogynous literary theory and helped establish significant new readings against the disjointed and muted mother as a precondition for narrativeness.
Lacan helped revise Freud’s hard gender narrative. Freud was a typical representative of ‘male society’, as confirmed in his study ‘Femininity’ (1933) in which he equated the processes of Oedipalization in little girls with what he called ‘penis envy’. By applying Saussure’s concepts of the signifier and the signified, in his study ‘The Meaning of the Phallus’ (1958), Lacan discovered a discursive error in Freud’s study and thus corrected the misogyny of Freud’s theory. Instead of ‘penis’ (as denoted in the original), Lacan introduced the term phallus (as a signifier). The phallus is a signifier of the absence and the main body of desire, but since the phallus is the signifier and not the signified, neither men nor women have it and both genders are destined to search after this unattainable phallus. In this game, the man always pretends to ‘have’ the phallus, while the woman pretends to ‘be’ it. Post-Lacanians later attacked Freud’s Oedipalization of men, claiming that he contributed towards a homogenization of the idea of masculinity, thus producing a non-existent and false image of uniform male identity. Despite being revisionist with respect to Freud, deconstructivist with respect to male identity, and bearing the potential to include the female identity and explain the process of female subjectivization, Lacan’s symbolic order theory remains phallocentric at its core.
Feminist discourse of the 20th century shed light on this painful subject in literary studies: the female extremism which characterizes both male literary criticism and female meta-criticism itself. Each of the female authors proclaimed herself the firstborn, without any predecessors, thus committing a matricide identical to Zeus’s when he devoured Athena’s mother, Metis, and Athena was later born straight out of his head. Miglena Nikolčina offered an exceptionally good insight into the meaning of matricide in literary history in her book Matricide in Language (2000), where she psychoanalytically explained the eternal drama of the mother and daughter in the literary patriarchate. This idea of the first female author started as early as with Mary Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft (‘the first of the new kind’). And even though Virginia Woolf describes two metaphors of female silence in her essay A Room of One’s Own (1929), inventing Shakespeare’s silent sister and citing the example of the Domestic Angel (as a metaphor of the voiceless Victorian woman), Woolf’s own opinion of Mary Carmichael’s work is negative because, according to Woolf, she lacks the richness of language which characterizes Thackeray. The very same ‘matricide’ was repeated in literary theory when Virginia Woolf herself was subjected to the analysis of Julia Kristeva, in whose opinion Woolf lacks the quality of wordplay present in Joyce’s works. And thus the parallel is drawn: just as
Carmichael is not Thackeray’s equal, Woolf herself is not
Joyce’s equal (according to Kristeva). Both of them are only silent sisters—the
first Thackeray’s, the second Joyce’s.
However, Julia Kristeva’s work has contributed greatly to reversing this silence. In her works she combines psychoanalysis and literary theory. For the first time, Kristeva manages to legitimize femininity as a value per se. In her book Powers of Horror (1980), Kristeva describes the symbolic as a place which excludes femininity because of the fear of the female’s power to give birth (‘The fear of the archaic mother appears to be in its essence a fear of the female power to give birth.’ says Kristeva). This fear is manifested in the male reduction of the woman to her pre-linguistic powers, to the power which the mother has over the subject before it enters the Oedipal triangle. In Sophocles’s plays, Orestes’ patricide is punished with his expulsion from the city, while his matricide in Oresteia achieves the opposite—matricide enables his return from exile. The Eumenides (as proponents of the new patriarchal order), together with Athena’s vote (the goddess born out of Zeus’s head) rule in favour of Orestes (the mother killer). Kristeva is an important interpreter of the pre-Oedipal stage and discusses the subject of the mother who, albeit a symbolizing and speaking subject, becomes a kind of entry, a passage from nature to culture. Kristeva’s key thesis about motherhood is that it signifies a reunion of the woman-mother with the body of her own mother (Kristeva, 1980, 237-270). Thus Kristeva arrives at the thesis that motherhood is an instance of the semiotic encroaching on the symbolic. Namely, what Lacan terms the imaginary stage becomes semiotic in Kristeva’s work. Kristeva focuses on the interspaces where the first (semiotic) stage penetrates into the second (symbolic) stage. Kristeva terms those passages thetic. The thetic is a territory where the subject-object dichotomy is unsettled. One of the most renowned thetic phenomena was termed abject by Kristeva. She defines the abject as a line between the su-bject and the o-bject, instead of between the subconscious and the conscious, where, at the same time and place, the internal and external (instincts and external phenomena) meet, where the archaic and contemporary (animal and cultural) suddenly touch.
On the basis of the work of Melanie Klein, best known for her object theory and as the first analyst to apply psychoanalysis to children (unlike Freud, who developed his theory on the sexuality of children exclusively on the basis of his interviews with adult patients), Kristeva develops her theory of the pre-Oedipal child who cannot differentiate between the subject and the object, for whom its own and its mother’s body are one and the same. The differentiation begins when the child becomes aware that the mother’s body is not a limitless source of ultimate pleasures, that some parts of the mother’s body can offer limitless satisfaction (i.e. the mother’s breasts), while others do not offer such pleasure. Moreover, the good parts are also not available to the libidinal child at all times; the parts of the mother’s body come and go, as do the waves of pleasure and ascesis. At the moment when the child begins dividing the mother’s body into good and bad objects, it objectivises the mother. On the basis of this, Kristeva arrives at the premise that the objectification of the mother is a precondition for all subjectivisations. I becomes a subject when it transforms the mother into an object. The passage into culture, language and meaning is marked by the image of an incomplete woman. However, even though the child becomes a subject and enters the order of laws, language and meaning, the subject never forgets its pre-subject stage. What will remain unforgotten is the abject itself. According to Kristeva, the abject operates in four areas: taboo, sin, food and uncleanliness (Kristeva, 1982, 1–31). In her theory, the prototype of all losses in narrations is the loss of the bond with the mother’s body. Kristeva’s theory is focused on the position of the mother as central to linguistics, poetics, history of literature, psychoanalysis and semiotics. The position of the mother/ female subject in the signifying practice is conceptualized as a position of exclusion from the signifying chain. Only through understanding the position of the excluded mother can the secrets of syntax and logic be discovered, as well as those of text and the production of the text. Terry Eagleton, who has made an effort to merge Kristeva’s premises with literature and with the perception of the text as literariness, sums up Kristeva’s semiotic in the following manner. He states that it is important to understand that the semiotic is not an alternative to the symbolic order, that it is not a language which could be spoken against ‘normal’ discourses, but a process which occurs within our conventional sign systems, a process which questions and violates their limitations. (Eagleton, 2000, 199).
Eagleton has suggested a division of psychoanalytical criticism into four types according to the aspect upon which the criticism is focused: on the author; on the content of the literary work; on the formal organization of the text; or on the reader (Eagleton, 2000, 188). All psychoanalytical criticism to date has been of the first two types (the author and the content), which are in fact ‘the most limited and problematic’. Nevertheless, Eagleton does not exclude the possibility of psychoanalysis offering well-founded theories in this sphere. One such theory, Eagleton reminds us, is that of Harold Bloom, who reads literary history as a substitution and battle of fathers and sons in the patriarchate. Bloom reads the changing of stylistic formations in literature through the lens of Freud’s concept of rotation of the father and son around the position of authority, the battle for the symbolic position of the paterfamilias. Literary history is most often generated as a relationship of filiations, as a son’s bond with literary ancestors. That is why we often read about Homer’s sons or Dostoyevsky’s sons. Bloom says that the meeting of Laius and Oedipus at the crossroads is the most adequate metaphor of literary history; it demonstrates that history is a substitution and domination of powerful individuals in the father-son relationship. This theory later proved valid in gynocriticism, which identified that, while the ‘fear of influences’ is characteristic of male authors and literary fatherhood, women in literature suffer from ‘fear of authorship’. This term was introduced by the American theorists Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. In a situation in which the main literary authorities for women are male authors who preceded them, women can overcome their fear of authorship only by detaching themselves from the dominant canon and creating palimpsest texts. Gilbert and Gubar belong to a wave of gynocriticism which is focused on the effects of reading experiences on the female author. If the literary tradition is 90 percent male, and if it repeats the stereotypes of the woman-angel and the woman-monster, then, they say, the retroactive influence of reading on authors is of great importance. (Gilbert & Gubar, 1984).
Finally, we should refer to one of the most important branches of contemporary psychoanalysis, schizoanalysis (the term is not directly related to the illness of schizophrenia), put forward in the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. They do not criticize Lacan directly. Indeed, as Elizabeth Wright notes, they extol Lacan for having brought the Oedipal conflict to a point of self-criticism, demonstrating that Oedipus, who loves his mother and hates his father, is an imagination of the conditioned structures of society (Wright, 1988, 623). In their manifesto against psychoanalysis, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari criticize psychoanalysis as a discipline which has helped capitalism derive desire from absence and reduce desire to passivity, though paradoxically so because there are no missing objects; what is missing is the fixed subject. However, more to the point is that Deleuze and Guattari were the first to provoke a serious debate about some of the most scandalous moments in the short history of practical psychoanalysis, such as its losing itself in bizarre naturalization. But, most astutely (and at the same time most painfully) they perform their criticism on Melanie Klein’s work, demanding more revolt against the Oedipalization of modern civilization, in the interpretations of art and in everyday life. According to Deleuze and Guattari, Melanie Klein wrote: ‘The first time Dick came to me ... he manifested no sort of affect when his nurse handed him over to me. When I showed him the toys I had put ready, he looked at them without the faintest interest. I took a big train and put it beside a smaller one and called them 'Daddy-train' and 'Dick-train.' Thereupon he picked up the train I called 'Dick' and made it roll to the window and said 'Station.' I explained: 'The station is mummy; Dick is going into mummy.' He left the train, ran into the space between the outer and inner doors of the room, shutting himself in, saying 'dark,' and ran out again directly. He went through this performance several times. I explained to him: 'It is dark inside mummy. Dick is inside dark mummy.' Meantime he picked up the train again, but soon ran back into the space between the doors. While I was saying that he was going into dark mummy, he said twice in a questioning way: 'Nurse?' . . . As his analysis progressed . . . Dick had also discovered the wash-basin as symbolizing the mother's body, and he displayed an extraordinary dread of being wetted with water.’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1990, 37, the italics are those of the authors). In their explanation of this scandalous violence by one of the leading psychoanalysts of the 19th century, Deleuze and Guattari add the following: ‘Say that it's Oedipus, or you'll get a slap in the face. The psychoanalyst no longer says to the patient: "Tell me a little bit about your desiring-machines, won't you?" Instead he screams: "Answer daddy-and-mommy when I speak to you! Even Melanie Klein […]". When the break between Freud and Jung is discussed, the modest and practical point of disagreement that marked the beginning of their differences is too often forgotten: Jung remarked that in the process of transference the psychoanalyst frequently appeared in the guise of a devil, a god, or a sorcerer, and that the roles he assumed in the patient's eyes went far beyond any sort of parental images. They eventually came to a total parting of the ways, yet Jung's initial reservation was a telling one. The same remark holds true of children's games. A child never confines himself to playing house, to playing only at being daddy-and-mommy. He also plays at being a magician, a cowboy, a cop or a robber, a train, a little car. The train is not necessarily daddy, nor is the train station necessarily mommy.’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1990, 37).
This radical departure from classical psychoanalytical images inherited from Freud, this abandonment of a sanitary interpretation of Freudian symbols, proved to be one of the most fruitful starting points for the application of psychoanalysis in literary criticism. Some of the best criticism that the psychoanalytical school had to offer in the field of literary studies came from Deleuze and Guattari. They wrote important books on Kafka, Proust and others, and suggested that literature should be read as a ‘rhizome’: an abandonment of the master-signifier, so that, in the rhizome, each segment of the literary work can be associated with any other, thus opposing the Aristotelian logic of division into genres, types and binary categories in the analysis of literary texts. According to Deleuze and Guattari, Kafka plays games with Oedipus, turning him into a comic entity. Kafka, according to Deleuze and Guattari, constantly produces bureaucratic triangles and associates them with family triangles, and vice versa. In Deleuze and Guattari’s words, all those figures are very complex in Kafka’s work. When the family triangle is initial, as in Metamorphosis, it is later joined or replaced by other members: the office-manager comes from behind Gregor’s door and is introduced into the family. At other places, like the beginning of The Trial, there is no family triangle given in advance (the father is dead, the mother is far away), but first the one and then the second member are introduced to function as a couple, only to be organized as a triangle by the introduction of the third member, the supervisor. This non-familial triangle is then transformed into a bureaucratic triangle of bankers, then into a triangle of voyeur neighbours, and into an erotic triangle (Deleuze & Guattari, 1998, 96). Deleuze and Guattari’s work, though, did not pass uncriticised. The most significant defence of psychoanalysis in literature came with Slavoj Zizek’s book Organs without Bodies (2004), a playful parody of one of the most important of Deleuze’s works, Bodies without Organs. Zizek attacks Deleuze’s concept of anti-Oedipus as reductionist, condensed into a simple rhetorical figure, while Freud envisaged it as a complex network of social intensities, as an expression of the impossibility of reducing subjective complexity to the I-Daddy-Mummy matrix (Zizek, 2004, 81-83).
Slavoj Zizek, the eminent contemporary psychoanalyst, is also one of the greatest contemporary compilers of psychoanalysis, literature, media culture and the radical political left. His extensive opus, still in progress, includes more than 30 books and thousands of articles. He has also attracted a large following both inside and outside academic circles. Zizek has linked psychoanalysis to literature, philosophy, politics, and cultural studies through his style of argumentation, which is to a great extent related to psychoanalytical practice itself: Zizek introduces free associations in his lectures with various oscillations and contradictions in the theses, while the numerous references and ambivalent theses cited from books are utilized in a manner which resembles the psychoanalyst’s approach of rounding up his patient’s free associations with a contradictory speech.3
In one of his books, The Fright of Real Tears (2001), Zizek recounts an anecdote about his contribution to a round-table discussion about art, when he was asked what he thought of a painting which he saw for the first time. He had no idea what to say and started bluffing, which went along the lines of: the frame of the painting before us is not a real frame; the structure of the painting implies another, invisible frame; the two frames do not match but are divided by an invisible gap; the central content of the painting is not expressed in its visible part but is located in the space between the two frames. Are we, today, in our post-modern madness, still able to decipher the traces of this gap?... To his surprise, the short intervention met with great approval and many of the participants later referred to the dimension between-the-two-frames, elevating it to a term. Zizek was considerably saddened by his success. He felt that he had witnessed not only the effectiveness of bluffing, but also the radical apathy at the heart of contemporary cultural studies (Zizek, 2001, 5-6). These melancholic lines of his should certainly be read psychoanalytically; that is, we should search for the symptom they conceal. The anecdote does not expose psychoanalytical hermeneutics as potentially manipulative and bluffing, because it obviously proved itself as functional, attractive and useful. Ultimately, even though we do not know whether Zizek offered a barely failed interpretation, we certainly do know that this interpretation of his met with prompt identification on the part of the audience. This anecdote, however, warns us that the relationship between psychoanalysis and literature/art should be built with care: Is literature/art reducible to a symptom?; Has Oedipalization brought anything good to literary studies?; Does psychoanalysis allow for possible manipulations of interpretations?; and, finally, Has the association of psychoanalysis and literature brought any benefits to the former discipline or to the latter, to both or to neither? One of these dangers is quite obvious - the excessive psychologization of the literary process does not always explain the complexity of the literary work (aesthetics, for instance, is regularly absent from psychoanalytical interpretations). In other words, like any other literary criticism, psychoanalysis not only has advantages that have led to real breakthroughs and revolutionary theories in some spheres of literary interpretation, but also limitations which have led to dramatic disappointments and failures in others.
Translated from Macedonian by Marija Jones
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6. Gilbert, Sandra M. & Gubar, Susan. 1984. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination.
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1 In his renowned Manifeste pour la philosophie, the French philosopher Alain Badiou identified four major themes of the modern age: art, politics, mathematics and love. According to Badiou, psychoanalysis is the only modern science about love.
2 The famous psychoanalyst Anna Freud (1895-1982), Sigmund Freud’s daughter, writes the following in one of her letters, answering the question as to which qualities are necessary in an analyst: ‘The psychoanalyst must have... interests... outside the medical field.... must be a great reader and must know the literature of many countries and cultures. Great literary works have characters who know human nature as much as the psychiatrists and psychologists.’
3 See the short analysis of Zizek’s style on the website of the famous collector and publisher of all Zizek’s production on the Internet, Mariborcan. Mariborcan has remained anonymous to the academic public, even though his impact on the dissemination of Zizek’s work outside academic circles is significant. http://mariborcan.com/how-to-read-zizek/
Professor Jasna Koteska (University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje, Macedonia)
Theoretical Psychoanalysis and Literature
The pairing of psychoanalysis and literature started with the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, who wrote extensively about literature, mainly in the manner of the German classical tradition and was a passionate reader of literature. In his essays he attempted to reconstruct the psyche of great authors in order to discover the enigma of their creativity. This paper analyzes the effects of the 150-year existence of psychoanalysis on literary studies, and vice versa, the influence of literary studies on psychoanalysis.
Through a historical review of the concepts of some more significant psychoanalysts (Breuer, Freud, Jung, Rank, Lacan, Klein, Kristeva, Deleuze and Guattari, Zizek), this text assesses the impact of the concept of the unconscious, the Oedipal complex, the sublimation object petit a, the abject, on the analysis of literary texts. Most psychoanalysts were passionate readers of literature and great compilers of literature, linguistics and psychoanalysis. They availed themselves of numerous literary references and their epistemology most often resembles that of literary theory.
At a deeper level, literary studies and psychoanalysis share the notion of the subject as the focus of their interest and interpret it in linguistic terms. In the analysis of the unconscious, psychoanalysis utilizes the concepts of condensation and dislocation of meaning, operations which resemble the two basic operations of language: metaphor and metonymy. These are central to any explanation of literary texts.