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Acklin, T. (1992). The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XIX, 1990/91.: The Truths ofFrankenstein: Technologism and Images of Destruction. Gordon Fellman. Pp. 177-231.. Psychoanal Q., 61:513-514.

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Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XIX, 1990/91.: The Truths ofFrankenstein: Technologism and Images of Destruction. Gordon Fellman. Pp. 177-231.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:513-514

The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XIX, 1990/91.: The Truths ofFrankenstein: Technologism and Images of Destruction. Gordon Fellman. Pp. 177-231.

Thomas Acklin

Fellman considers the cultural meaning of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, its images of destruction and helplessness, not only as evoked in the present nuclear threat, but in all science, technology, economics, psychology, and politics—in short, in all endeavors to reach beyond human limits to attain extraordinary power. Fellman refers to Civilization and its Discontents, noting that Victor Frankenstein's horror at his own creation reflects what Freud describes as our fear of upsetting inner equilibrium in exploring the unknown in human personality. The novel examines the power and destructiveness of the strange and fearful dimensions of human sexuality, particularly in their oedipal intensity, reflected in attempts at resolution, such as the way in which Frankenstein goes away with his mother and comes back with the wished-for baby of his own creation.

Woman and sexual activity are not involved in his creation; Victor's monster represents the male child's narcissistic fantasy which refuses to accept that children come only from women's bodies. Fellman suggests that Frankenstein is ultimately trying to become far more than a woman bearing life or a father contributing to the conception of a child; indeed Frankenstein is rivaling God. The murderous offspring of all these conflicted wishes is named Monster, Demon, Fiend, Devil, or simply "He." The demon represents both Victor's own anger and the anger he expects his father to unleash against him in retribution for his autonomy and ambition. Fellman recognizes in the monster the same danger that Freud described in fundamental aggressive and sexual impulses becoming destructive if not acknowledged and allowed expression. The author identifies the struggle between Frankenstein and the monster as the struggle between ego and id. Moreover, Victor's monster is seen as a masturbatory fantasy, a failed attempt to prove the anal theory of birth, as well as an attempt to at once subsume the capacity to bear a child and to hold onto the departed mother by internalizing her. In all this Victor struggles to liberate himself from constricting oedipal bonds.

Fellman concludes by wondering whether the nuclear threat is determined more by confused male strivings, such as those found in Victor Frankenstein, than by historical circumstances. According to the author, repressed longing in the original constellation of the family is transformed into economic and political struggle and imperialism. The recognition of denial opens the pathway for sublimation and, according to the author, the sublimation of such destructive energy allows it to merge with what Freud identified as eros. Forms of domination are for Fellman


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ultimately an interplay between the inner and the outer. He feels that social critics who ignore internal dynamics make the same blunder as psychoanalysts who ignore history and institutional dynamics in their description of reality.


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

Acklin, T. (1992). The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XIX, 1990/91.. Psychoanal. Q., 61:513-514

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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.