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Reed, G.S. (1983). The Literary Use of the Psychoanalytic Process: By Meredith Anne Skura. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1981. 280 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 52:469-473.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:469-473

The Literary Use of the Psychoanalytic Process: By Meredith Anne Skura. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1981. 280 pp.

Review by:
Gail S. Reed

Psychoanalytic studies of literature generally suffer by virtue of their interdisciplinary nature. Justifiably unfamiliar with what might be called "clinical" in the practice of literary criticism, psychoanalysts have no familiarity with a body of critical conventions which wishes to protect the whole text, including its surface. As a consequence, the analyst is at best puzzled by the reproach of "reductive" which a critic might level at an analyst's identification of an unconscious fantasy not apparent on the text's manifest level. Conversely, literary critics, lacking actual clinical experience, tend to know and apply only the psychoanalysis that is available in theoretical writings. The result frequently appears reductive to analysts familiar with the subtleties of clinical practice. What occurs is that the two groups of people are only apparently speaking the same language. In fact, an apparently common vocabulary refers to concepts which have evolved from very different sets of experiences. The critic does not appreciate the possible function of identification of latent fantasy content, and the analyst does not comprehend the critic's very different concept of interpretation. Given this situation, it is not surprising to find that misunderstanding has taken the form of disagreement and mutual disregard.

Meredith Skura's The Literary Use of the Psychoanalytic Process should go a long way toward clarifying misunderstandings and fostering dialogue. Informed by a clinical knowledge of psychoanalysis and a practical knowledge of literary criticism, it offers both the critic and the analyst a perspective on the other's endeavors.

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