7 months ago

Sigmund Freud

ather our reactions tend

ather our reactions tend to be about how the novel affects us, whether it seems emotionally true (rather than objectively true), whether it makes us think about things in new ways or whether it fictionally fulfils our wishes or desires. Of course two people meeting for therapy in a psychoanalytic office is not a situation equivalent to someone sitting down to read a novel; what is at stake is very different. But yet, as I suggested earlier, the forms of transference involved may be similar; the question of constructing a past that will help to explain the present and forge a future can be seen as a question of reading and interpretation, and, as our continuing cultural fascination with psychoanalysis shows, Freud continues to provide challenging and provocative ways for thinking-through this question. John Forrester (1997:5) has suggested that the attempt to ascertain the status of psychoanalysis as art or science is a mistaken approach to the continuing cultural irritation that is Freud: ‘We have to take seriously the suggestion that debates about psychoanalysis should not be couched in the form: is it an art or a science? But rather: what changes in our general categories are required by recognizing that psychoanalysis is both an art and a science?’ Forrester continues: ‘psychoanalysis has produced in the analyst a cultural figure whose work is aesthetic as much as it is investigative (in the style of the research scientist or of the private detective) and has made available to the patient the opportunity to render his or her life a work of art, a narrative of chance and destiny as well as a thriller, whether psychological or otherwise’ (Forrester 1997:5). Psychoanalytic criticism, at its best, raises as many questions as it answers about the difference between art and science, fact and fiction, fantasy and reality; about the status of authority figures; about the ways we come to think we know what we desire or think we know who we are; about the knowledge we claim to hold about ourselves and others. As far as I can see, none of Freud’s attackers has begun to provide methods for approaching questions of this depth to take the place of the interpretive schema they are so eager to discard. I predict that, in academia and out of it, Freud’s works will continue to be read, and continue to help people to read differently, even as they continue to provoke both fractious dissension and eager agreement, long into the twenty-first century.


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