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Wang, B. (2000). Memory, Narcissism, and Sublimation: Reading Lou Andreas-Salomé's Freud Journal. Am. Imago, 57(2):215-234.

(2000). American Imago, 57(2):215-234

Memory, Narcissism, and Sublimation: Reading Lou Andreas-Salomé's Freud Journal

Ban Wang

In The Freud Journal, Lou Andreas-Salomé (1987) jotted down her thoughts while studying with Freud in Vienna from 1912 to 1913. A strand of her thought was strongly directed to the question of memory against the background of modernity. In this essay I trace her notions of memory, narcissistic love, and sublimation in the journal. Salomé's reflections on these issues projected a vital, creative dimension repressed in the mainstream psychoanalytical thinking of Freud's circle, with its focus on the heavy weight of civilization over the psyche and its resignation to the dominant relations of power. Finding this resignation still lingering in the Frankfurt School, in Lacanian psychoanalysis, and even in poststructuralism, Anthony Elliotte points to the “devaluation of the creative, imaginary features of psychic processes.” The task for a psychoanalysis usable for emancipatory practice, then, is to find out “how the potentially transformative elements of the imaginary and the self should be reconnected to the social field” (1992, 235). Cornelius Castoriadis puts the question more sharply: “Has psychoanalysis nothing to do with the Western emancipatory movement? Is work directed toward gaining knowledge of the Unconscious and transforming the human subject wholly unrelated to the question of freedom and the question of philosophy?” (1997, 125). Salomé, to be sure, was no rebel against the status quo. Yet a close look at her journal will reveal her radical reflections on the primal forms of desire, which, lodged in narcissism, in the longing for the past memory of joy, and in the unconscious, persist as a critique of the rational ego. With an eye on the libido's constant surge forward through representation and affectssublimation—she opened up the possibility of positing the creative, imaginary power of the human subject in changing the world.

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