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Kanzer, M. (1955). Gogol—a Study on Wit and Paranoia. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 3:110-125.

(1955). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 3:110-125

Gogol—a Study on Wit and Paranoia

Mark Kanzer, M.D.


1. Wit and paranoia offer related and alternative forms of discharge for certain repressed drives as well as social tendencies. Consequently wit may prove of symptomatic significance in relation to paranoia as well as to incipient social protest.

2. The interplay between a paranoid individual and a discontented social group is traced in the career of Gogol. Repressed individual and political forces found outlets in common symbols which permitted each to find representation and discharge through the other.

3. Freud's description of the wit work is consequently amended. The elaboration of the preconscious by the unconscious required for this process can take place either directly or with the group acting as intermediary ("object passage"). The relaxation of group inhibitions through jests secondarily affects the censorship within the individual. The "brother horde" is enlisted to reinforce the ego in its comic or real battle with the father figure.

4. The multidetermination of symbols may lead to unconscious misinterpretation of audience approval, so that serious impairment of reality testing results. Even in psychosis, however, the disavowed individual may truly represent the real wishes and the future trends developing within the general population.

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