In this book Mark Edmundson reverses the usual practice of using Freud to analyze literary texts. Instead, he reads Freud by analogy with major imaginative writers for whom the figuring and refiguring of the self is a central activity. His readings expose a dialectic between the therapeutic Freud and Freud the sublime author and challenge the normative role of psychoanalysis both in society and in literary criticism.
Edmundson begins by comparing the Oedipal passage in The Interpretation of Dreams with works of Sophocles and Shakespeare. He reads Freud's "On Narcissism" through the lens of Eve's Narcissus scene in Paradise Lost; considers the papers on therapeutic technique against Wordsworth's Prelude and major lyrics; and places the ethos of "Mourning and Melancholia" in contrast to the American "refusal to mourn" that informs Emerson's essays. The readings show that even as Freud is representing general human limits, he is frequently reinventing himself symbolically in ways that defy his own normative standards. Edmundson asks, then, whether Freud's self-creating drive, or that exemplified by any of the "literary" authors in the study, can serve as an example of useful resistance against the tendencies that normative psychoanalysis reinforces within society.
File created: 2/24/2017