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Wilson, E., Jr. (1986). Psyche. XXXIX, 1985: Freud's Approaches to the Psychology of Art. Horst Breuer. Pp. 577-591.. Psychoanal Q., 55:695-696.

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Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psyche. XXXIX, 1985: Freud's Approaches to the Psychology of Art. Horst Breuer. Pp. 577-591.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:695-696

Psyche. XXXIX, 1985: Freud's Approaches to the Psychology of Art. Horst Breuer. Pp. 577-591.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

Two main trends can be discerned in Freud's discussions of the psychology of art and literature. The first was set by The Interpretation of Dreams, which dealt with art and literature as what Horst Breuer terms "fantasy scenarios." In this approach, the artwork is treated as if it were a dream production and analyzed accordingly. Another approach was shown in the study of Jensen's Gradiva. There the characters of Jensen's short novel were treated as real-life persons and the artwork seen as a "real-life" scenario. An external perspective is dominant in the real-life view, while in the fantasy scenario the inner psychological world of the author is involved, and the artwork is seen as analogous to a dream, rather than as insight into human character. But familiar methodological questions arise: who is doing the dreaming—the reader, the author, the implicit reader, the art form, or the collective unconscious? Breuer discusses what he sees as the main shortcomings of Freud's dated approach: an emphasis on content, an equation of the artistic and the real-life situation, and the neglect of cultural or time-dependent differences in the affective situation expressed in the artwork, that is, a view of psychic structure and processes as invariable throughout human history. Certain of Freud's essays, such as "Some Character-Types Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work," are in the tradition of nineteenth-century character criticism, taking the character depicted as a real-life person to be analyzed. Others are psychobiographical, rather than contributions to the psychology of art. "The 'Uncanny'" returns to a view of the artwork as a fantasy scenario. Though Freud's interpretations reflected the state of development of psychoanalysis at the time, and had to do with oedipal and castration anxieties, contemporary interpretations based on early object relations have an important place also. In Freud's last great work on the psychology of literature, "Dostoevsky and Parricide," he moved from the symbol translation of his earlier efforts to a discussion of the emotional characteristics of the story as derived from early infantile object relations. Freud's writings reflect not only the undeveloped and positivistic character of early psychoanalysis, but also the reductionistic aesthetics of the turn of the century. Contemporary


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applications of psychoanalytic insights to literature should not simply repeat Freud's efforts, but should attempt to develop them further.


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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1986). Psyche. XXXIX, 1985. Psychoanal. Q., 55:695-696

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WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the subscriber to PEP Web and is copyright to the Journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to copy, distribute or circulate it in any form whatsoever.