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Priel, B. (1998). Beyond Neutrality and Embeddedness: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Detective Fiction. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 26(3):443-456.

(1998). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 26(3):443-456

Beyond Neutrality and Embeddedness: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Detective Fiction

Beatriz Priel, Ph.D.

There was no plot … and I discovered it by mistake.

—Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (1980), p. 491

The experience of the reader making sense of a text constitutes a vantage point for the analysis of how new meanings are discovered or created in general, and in the psychoanalytic dialogue in particular. From a psychoanalytic perspective, interest in the process of reading stems from ongoing inquiry into the referential status of language. This inquiry has lead to the contemporary redefinition of psychoanalytical interpretation as a “reading” or as “another reading” of the analysand's discourse: What is at stake in the analytical discourse is always thisto what is uttered as a signifier [by the analysand] you [the analyst] give another reading than what it means (Lacan, 1975, p. 37). Reading is here conceived as a construction in which not only the text but also the reader are inevitably implicated. Shoshana Felman confers a radical meaning to this position:

The unconscious is a reader. What is implies most radically is that whoever reads, interprets out of his unconscious, is an analysand, even when the interpreting is done from the position of the analyst…. The reader is therefore, on some level, always an analysand—an analysand who knows what he means but whose interpretations can be given another reading than what it means. This is what analytical discourse is all about. (Felman, 1987, p. 22)

Psychoanalytic studies of the reading processes have shown that literary structures affect the reader's awareness of mental functions which otherwise remain unconscious. Already in “The Uncanny(1919) Freud noted the effect of specific texts on the reader's conscious awareness of the compulsion to repeat, and proposed that whatever reminds us of this inner compulsion to repeat is perceived as uncanny (p. 238).

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