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Meisel, P. (2001). Psychoanalysis and Aestheticism. Am. Imago, 58(4):749-766.

(2001). American Imago, 58(4):749-766

Psychoanalysis and Aestheticism

Perry Meisel

Freud as Literature

Freud's influence—its nature, its history, its origins—is a complex affair. Michel Foucault, in his essay “What Is an Author?” (1969), describes it with extraordinary precision. Like Marx, he writes, Freud is the “initiator” of a “discursive practice”:

Freud is not simply the author of The Interpretation of Dreams or of Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious and Marx is not simply the author of the Communist Manifesto or Capital: they both established the endless possibility of discourse.… In saying that Freud founded psychoanalysis, we do not simply mean that the concept of libido or the techniques of dream analysis reappear in the writing of Karl Abraham or Melanie Klein, but that he made possible a certain number of differences with respect to his books, concepts, and hypotheses, which all arise out of psychoanalytic discourse. (131-32)

Foucault's animosity toward Freud in the latter phase of his own career, particularly in the first volume of The History of Sexuality (1976), is itself an example of Freud's influence as Foucault describes it. Foucault is a Freudian because he cannot help it. Freud is part of the air we breathe; indeed, he is the air we breathe, whether we like it or not.

As Foucault suggests, Freud's customary stance as a narrator is really, to use a contemporary metaphor, an interactive one. He invites you to argue with him. He invites you, not to be persuaded, but to resist. It is not unlike the analytic situation.

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