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Priel, B. (1994). The Dialetics of Aesthetic Experience: An Object Relations Perspective on Narrative Ambiguity. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 17(4):547-562.

(1994). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 17(4):547-562

The Dialetics of Aesthetic Experience: An Object Relations Perspective on Narrative Ambiguity

Beatriz Priel, Ph.D.

The process of reading a literary text is conceptualized as an aesthetic object relation, implying a characteristic and complex interplay of objective and subjective components. The reading of texts structured as permanently ambiguous evokes an increased awareness of the separation from an omnipotent transformational object. This aesthetic experience is understood as a specific dialectical interplay between an entrapment in the sensorial features of the object and the awareness of interpretation. Different readings of one ambiguous literary text, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, dramatize the vicissitudes of the creation of an aesthetic experience (1898). In the reading of this story both the awareness of transformational object traces and the failure of the omnipotent object are evoked by the permanent gap structured in the text. If the focusing on the formal characteristics of the text acts as container of the anxiety created by the nontransformational changes of meaning, the aesthetic event is granted: the relation is to the object in itself without a peremptory need to solve the unsolvable enigma. But, if the reading of the ambiguous text evokes degrees of anxiety which are not contained by the formal characteristics of the story, then the reader is compelled to be himself the transformer and to create a univocal version of the story's meaning.

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