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Wilson, E., Jr. (1986). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLV, 1981: "If I Distrust My Memory…" An Essay To Have Done with Theories of Inscription. Claude Le Guen. Pp. 1111-1140.. Psychoanal Q., 55:699-700.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLV, 1981: "If I Distrust My Memory…" An Essay To Have Done with Theories of Inscription. Claude Le Guen. Pp. 1111-1140.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:699-700

Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLV, 1981: "If I Distrust My Memory…" An Essay To Have Done with Theories of Inscription. Claude Le Guen. Pp. 1111-1140.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

This is a very thoughtful discussion of the ambiguities in Freud's article on the mystic writing pad and the misuse to which it has been put. Freud's short note has evoked an enormous literature. This disproportionate capacity to evoke discussion has been shared by Freud's "Negation," but the latter introduced a new and major concept, while "A Note upon the 'Mystic Writing-Pad'" seems to return to a theory which one might have thought had been abandoned: the theory of inscriptions or mnemic traces, which looks backward to the Project. It involves a neurophysiological explanation which Freud subsequently abandoned for the purely psychological approach he evolved in his major break with the past between the Project and The Interpretation of Dreams. It is important to recognize the explicit and the implicit limitations that Freud set on his analogy of the writing pad. One of the limits is in the very first sentence, which begins, "If I distrust my memory…" Psychoanalysis is concerned with the deformations of memories, which occur through the working of dynamic forces in the unconscious. The inscription of a memory and its truth are not so important as the deformations and the forces which bring them about. It was Freud's inability to account for these dynamic deformations that led him to a purely psychological theory. An insistence on the theory of inscription which some read into the writing pad article is an error, according to Le Guen. The emphasis on inscriptions has had a wide and misleading impact on psychoanalytic theorizing. It is embodied in the genetic point of view and can be seen in the research involving the longitudinal observation of children. Le Guen is critical of all theories that take a predominantly spatial or genetic approach to psychoanalysis. He sees this same


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error in the work of Lacan and Melanie Klein. The important issue in psychoanalysis is not what is "written" in memory, but what is "read" from it, with all the ensuing deformations: the "living history" elaborated between analyst and patient. There are abundant references to Freud's later theories in the writing pad article. He did not trouble himself much about the apparent introduction of the writing pad analogy in his intellectually playful article. Its misleading elements would probably have been suppressed by its author had he become aware of the backwardlooking use that would be made of the little pece.


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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1986). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLV, 1981. Psychoanal. Q., 55:699-700

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WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.