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Zwettler-Otte, S. (2017). Gregorio Kohon: Reflections on the Aesthetic Experience - Psychoanalysis and the Uncanny. London and New York: Routledge 2016. 175 pages.. Free Associations, 18(2):116-119.

(2017). Free Associations, 18(2):116-119

Book Review

Gregorio Kohon: Reflections on the Aesthetic Experience - Psychoanalysis and the Uncanny. London and New York: Routledge 2016. 175 pages.

Review by:
Sylvia Zwettler-Otte

Gregario Kohon's exciting new book should attract serious readers interested in the fascinating relationship between psychoanalysis and art, and indeed it is extraordinary in many respects. Quite deliberately it differs from ambitious books offering comprehensive explanations of art and literature, the creative process, and the aesthetic value or unconscious meaning of art. Kohon instead explores personal emotional reactions provoked by artistic or literary objects and their different meanings, with all their accompanying layers and dynamic shifts. In art the uncanny mixture of past and present, of irrationality and rationality, Kohon argues, stirs in us a feeling of sublime strangeness, fusing the familiar with something ‘other’. Hence, he addresses the only issue that every reader undeniably is interested in: the reader's own (potential) experience.

The range of artists he treats is vast: Louise Bourgeois's sculptures, Franz Kafka's ‘The Burrow,’ a Juan Munoz short story, a Roman baroque church designed by Borromini, Californian sculptor Richard Serra's works, Edvard Munch's paintings, public monuments, installations and more. They all are thematically connected through the experience of the Uncanny, as Freud understood it, as a return of the repressed. This experience always appears strange and familiar at the same time and may not only shock us and make us recoil, but also excite and entice us. If there is indeed a certain openness and intrepidness in the quest to ‘understand’ a work of art - not only with intellect but with emotional engagement too - the aesthetic experience can resemble that of an ongoing psychoanalysis.

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