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Turri, M.G. (2015). Transference and Katharsis, Freud to Aristotle. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(2):369-387.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(2):369-387

Interdisciplinary Studies

Transference and Katharsis, Freud to Aristotle Language Translation

Maria Grazia Turri

(Accepted for publication 5 March 2014)

Aristotle's theory of tragic katharsis is the most ancient and debated theory of the effect of the theatrical experience on the audience. It affirms that tragedy effects the katharsis of fear and pity, engaging readers with the controversy whether by katharsis Aristotle meant purification of the emotions (i.e. their perfection within the mind) or purification of the mind from the emotions (i.e. their abreaction from the mind).

In this paper I will explore how Freud's theory of transference can suggest a new interpretation of Aristotle's tragic katharsis. Transference allows for the representation and expression of repressed emotions through the re-enactment of past relational dynamics. Although this process is essential to the psychoanalytic method, it is the subsequent analytic endeavour which allows for the “working through” of repressed emotions, bringing into effect the transference cure.

I argue that the dynamic between emotional arousal in re-enactment and emotional distancing in analysis offers an effective parallel of the dynamic between katharsis of fear and katharsis of pity in Aristotle's theory. Such interpretation of tragic katharsis suggests that the theatrical effect in audiences may be an opportunity for self-analysis and the ‘working through’ of unconscious psychic dynamics.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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