In this paper, I am going to make a research about the figure of Sigmund Freud, the best well-known author of psychoanalysis. First, I am going to sum up the main principles of Freudís theory of psychoanalysis that are essential to understand its application to the literary theory that I will explain later. I will also talk about Lacan who made a reading of Freudís theory. And finally, I will talk about some Freudís books and books that Freud has commented from the point of view of psychoanalysis.
Beginning with Freudís theory of psychoanalysis, Freud talks about the three forces of the psychical apparatus: the id, the ego and the superego. The id has the quality of being unconscious and contains everything that is inherited, everything that is present at birth, and the instincts. The ego has the quality of being conscious and is responsible for controlling the demands of the id and of the instincts, becoming aware of stimuli, and serving as a link between the id and the external world. In addition, the ego responds to stimulation by either adaption or flight, regulates activity, and strives to achieve pleasure and avoid unpleasure. Finally, the superego, whose demands are managed by the id, is responsible for the limitation of satisfactions and represents the influence of others, such as parents, teachers, and role models, as well as the impact of racial, social and cultural traditions.
Freud states that the instincts are the ultimate cause of all behaviour. The two basic instincts are Eros ( love ) and the destructive or death instinct. The purpose of Eros is to establish and preserve unity through relationships. On the other hand, the purpose of death instinct is to undo connections and unity via destruction. The two instincts can either operate against each other through repulsion or combine with each other through attraction.
Freud contends that sexual life begins with manifestations that present themselves soon after birth. The four main phases in sexual development are the oral phase, the sadistic-anal phase, the phallic phase and the genital phase, and each phase is characterized by specific occurrences.
Freud defines the qualities of the psychical process as being either conscious, preconscious, or unconscious. The unconscious is the psychical quality that one has no direct access to. The properties that originate in the unconscious are usually repressed. One can only access the unconscious through indirect interpretations, such as dreams. The preconscious is the psychical quality that one does have access to. While the elements in the preconscious are not present in oneís immediate consciousness, these elements can easily be recovered if necessary. The conscious is the psychical quality that deals with a personís immediate state of mind. It is composed of what one is thinking and acting right at that moment.
Freud spent many years hypothesizing about the role of dreams and their interpretation. Dreams are undoubtedly caused by conflict and are characterized by their power to bring up memories that the dreamer has forgotten, their strong use of symbolism and their ability to reproduce repressed impressions of the dreamerís childhood. Dreams are, in addition, capable of bringing up impressions that cannot have originated from the dreamerís life.
According to Freud, the basic objective of psychoanalysis is to remove neurosis and thereby cure patients by returning the damaged ego to its normal state.
These are the main elements of Freudís theory of psychoanalysis; once we have understood these basic principles, I am going to focus on the literary aspects of this theory.
The ego is trying to keep a balance between the id and the superego, but this balance is practically impossible. The egoís contact with the external reality, is not a simple contact. The relationship between the ego and the external reality is controversial, threatening, dangerous, and that is the reason why Freud says that the task of the ego is constructive.
As far as the ego modifies reality and instincts, its place of work should be the fiction ( in terms of literature ). If the ego did not build the fictions of balance, if the ego approached completely to reality, this reality would become intolerable. If the ego did the same with its instincts, it would occur the same. So, in this way, the fictionality is an existential obligation.
As I have said in the previous paper, the individual is obliged to alienate himself from reality and shelter himself in an own construction. This shelterís construction is known as "fiction of balance".
The ego tries to keep a balance between the id and the superego. According to Freud, in the unconscious occurs "the substitution of the external reality for the psychic one". And this substitution can only be another act of creation and, therefore, of fiction. From these things that I have already said, we can deduce that the ego is not the only one that create, the id and another third person can create too. The ego is a plurality not always present, or a plurality of fictions.
The conscious part of the ego works with the id and the superego, but the unconscious works too, it also creates its fictions, for example, in the dreams. Later, I will talk about The interpretation of dreams of Freud.
Bearing in mind this concept of dreams, we can understand the importance, that in the psychoanalytic literature has, the concept of "fantasy" or "ghost". The creativity of the ego is possible by means of the fantasy. This concept of fantasy is related to the concept of romanticism. The theory of "fantasy" or "imagination" is in the service of a literary theory that "broke" with the classical conception of "mímesis".
Without the substitution, creation, fiction or fantasy, the ego could not hold up in the middle of the forces that compose it.
According to Freud, children repeat in their games anything that in their lives have caused a great impression on them and, in this way, they take over the situation. Only by this point of view, you can understand the pleasure of the literary piece. By means of literature, you do the same as children, you write about something that have caused a great impression on you and, in this way, you take over the situation.
I have tried to explain the literary side of psychoanalysis and now I am going to talk about Lacan, another important author of psychoanalysis, who made a reading of Freudís assumptions. I think that it is important to know another point of view of psychoanalysis, and Lacan can bring us another different vision.
Lacan thinks that it is not only important that the individual recycles the external and internal influences, but that the individual should also lose the contact with anything that did not be the significant or the symbolic order. If the individual is individual, it will be because it has been confined in the fiction of the significant.
Lacan, in his reading of Freud, direct, into its highest consequences, the Freudís analysis of paranoia and the significantís transformation. Lacan thinks that when an individual looks for something, this search is determined previously by the significant and it meets with the languageís obstacle ( what it is called by Lacan as "the significantís treasure" ), this suppose a deviation from the place where the message is produced, to sanction it and turn it to the code. So, the circuit of signification does not close in the messageís production but it should also wait for the codeís sanction. To assume these premises, suppose changing the notion of "unconscious" as Freud had formulated it. The "unconscious" will be now ordered and the fiction will identify with the fiction of the significant.
According to Lacan, psychoanalysis want to put all together and explain any sort of discourse both philosophic and literary.
The real things are outside the individual. The significant circulate freely, creating, as a result, the individual and the reality. Trying to stop the significant is almost impossible. Lacan thinks that the literature permits the significant to circulate freely.
The relationship between philosophy and literature is based on dualities such as true-falsehood, real-fictitious, verifiable-fantastic.
These are more or less the general assumptions of Lacanís theory. I have mentioned them because they are related to Freud and because I think that it is important to know a different point of view from the Freudís one, in order to contrast different ideas.
The next part of this paper will consist of an analysis of several books of Freud. Books regarding psychoanalysis whose main ideas I will try to explain.
The first book I want to talk about is La interpretación de los sueños ( I am going to name these books in Spanish because I do not know exactly the translation and I am afraid of changing its signification ). Freud thinks that during the dream, the strength of the conscious decreases but not until the moment that the unconscious could flow as it is. The material flow by means of symbols, masks. So, the unconscious material create another fiction, the fiction of dreams. In this book, Freud observe that the mechanisms used to obtain the fiction are the condensation and displacement, that Lacan will identify with the rhetorical mechanisms of metaphor and metonymy. The dream gives its own interpretation of reality that, in fact, do not coincide with reality, because the unconscious origins, reveal us a substitution of the external reality for the psychic one.
Another book is El chiste y su relación con el inconsciente. In this book, Freud will recognize the condensation and displacement as the most characteristic procedures of the jokeís structure. We have to point out that the joke is an small fiction. The creation of the fiction swamps the Freudís theory of the individual: it creates the ego between the impulses of the id and the superego, it creates the collectivity when it tells jokes, according to Freud, to get a commitment between an impulse discharge and a repetition.
In the book titled Paranoia y neurosis obsesiva, Freud interprets the story of Schreber. Freud only bases himself in the memories written by Schreber. These memories talk about the transformation of doctor Schreber in a woman or in a soul given to God, with whom he maintains an stormy relationship. The analysis that Freud made is interesting because Schreber is a man normal and abnormal at the same time. Schreber suffered a paranoia, but his conduct do not differentiate a lot from the conduct of a poet, novelist or playwright because all of them need to recycle, to create and to substitute, in order to be able to subsist.
In the book called El creador literario y la fantasía, Freud puts in relation the origin of fantasy, the mechanisms of thematic symbolism and the fact that childrenís games are poetic creations. These are creations of an own world.
Freud wrote a text: "La cultura como represión". In this text Freud says that the culture is achieved by repressing the instincts. This repression leads to individual and collective neurosis. In this text, Freud also talks about "totemic sacrifice", but I am not going to mention it because I think that it is not important in this paper.
Freud wrote also a text in 1908, titled "La creación literaria y el sueño despertado", in this text Freud approaches the poetís work to the game of a child and to the fantasies and ghosts of our dreams.
Finally, I am going to talk about El malestar en la cultura, wrote in the year 1930 by Freud. In this book, Freud establishes different points and I am going to sum up the main ideas. The first point is known as "La arqueología de los estados previos", it refers to what the child has lived until the age of six. The second point, talks about that the pleasure principle ( principio de placer ) is the most important one because it rules our lives. In another point, Freud establishes that the culture is a sum of institutions that separate us from the animal instinct. In another point, Freud talks about the essential phases in the constitution of the culture. Freud also says that the superego is sadistic and that the ego experiments a necessity of punishment because its conscience dictates it.
To conclude this paper, I am going to talk about some opinions that Freud gave related to literature, seen from the point of view of psychoanalysis, and comments that Freud made regarding some books.
At the end of his life, Freud considered the art and literature with the eyes of a Goethe or a Schopenhauer. The terms condensation, displacement, censorship, etc. result important mechanisms to analyse texts.
The interpretation that an analyst offers of a text, can give us a more cautious and more flexible reading of that text. This reading allows us to know the secret movements of a text, these movements respond to dark affective movements and these made that the analyst gave a rational expression by means of an "open" interpretation.
With regard to the play of Hamlet, wrote by Shakespeare, Freud thinks that this play is a masterpiece, he thinks that the only one that has solved our trouble about the emotion that this play creates on us is the psychoanalysis. The Oedipus complex has helped to analyse some works, not only Hamlet, but Edipo Rey or El Cid. We can be supported by the Oedipus complex to understand the games of relationships, given in these works, and try to know why the spectator has that emotion when seeing the play. This can corroborate us the seduction of the text.
Freud also made an analysis of the novel of Jensen, titled Gradiva. You can easily see how the psychological content of the novel could seduce Freud. In this novel you will find elements as: images, ghosts, figures, dreams, movements, words...These elements enrich a love story, advance and organize themselves according to an axis that correspond to a development of an analytic cure. Freud recognizes that the novelist has a "psychiatric" capacity. Freud shows that poets and novelists are "with regard to the knowledge of the soul, masters of all of us". The interest that this novel has, according to Freud, is that this novel, because of its psychological contents, can be investigated psychoanalyticly.
Another play that Freud analysed was The King Lear of Shakespeare. In this play, the figure of the youngest daughter of the king, Cordelia, has a feature named dumbness. The psychoanalysis of dream shows us that the dumbness is a usual representation of death. So, the figures of dramas and mythological figures are representations of death, according to Freud.
In conclusion, in my opinion, Freud was very intelligent
and he was interested not only in psychoanalysis as a therapy but in many
other fields where psychoanalysis could be applied. He is a very interesting
figure to study.
* http: / / galton. psych. nwu. edu / greatideas / papers / beystehner. html
* http: / / galton. psych. nwu. edu / greatideas / papers / plaut. html
* www. psych. nmsu. edu / ~
sengupta / psycho. html
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