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Robinson, K. (1996). The tolerance of artistic intelligence: shaping the unconscious. Free Associations, 6(4):513-529.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(4):513-529

The tolerance of artistic intelligence: shaping the unconscious

Ken Robinson

By his own admission Freud believed that psychoanalysis must lay down its arms before the mystery of artistic creation (1928, p. 177). It cannot, he believed, penetrate the artist's ‘innermost secrets.’ His honesty about the limits of psychoanalysis has contributed to his writings about art being sometimes misunderstood and sometimes undervalued. Although Richard Wollheim (1975) and Paul Ricoeur (1970) have argued that Freud's writings on art are more subtle than they have traditionally been taken to be, his contribution to thinking about the artistic process is normally seen as limited to linking art and neurosis. For Lionel Trilling, writing in one of two still very influential essays on Freud (1967), Freud was ‘always outside the process of literature. Much as he responds to the product, he really does not imagine the process’ (p. 89). In an earlier essay, ‘Art and Neurosis(1970), Trilling had argued forcefully that the problem with locating the source of the writer's genius in neurotic conflict is that neurosis is not the exclusive province of the artist and that what Freud ignores is the writer's power to shape his material. The writer

is what he is by virtue of his successful objectification of his neurosis, by his shaping it and making it available to others in a way which has its effect upon their own egos in struggle. His genius, that is, may be defined in terms of his faculties of perception, representation, and realization, and in these terms alone. (p.

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