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Priel, B. (1999). Bakhtin and Winnicott: On Dialogue, Self, and Cure. Psychoanal. Dial., 9(4):487-503.

(1999). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 9(4):487-503

Bakhtin and Winnicott: On Dialogue, Self, and Cure

Beatriz Priel, Ph.D.

This paper develops a Bakhtinian dialogical perspective on the psychoanalytic discourse in general and on the concepts of true and false selves (Winnicott, 1960b) in particular. Bakhtin's assumptions about the origins of dialogicality in children's development are compared to Winnicott's ideas about the origins of true-and false-self processes. This comparison leads to a characterization of the false and true selves as different genres of the narrated self—the epic and the novel—each with its specific configurations of experience and temporality. Moreover, psychoanalysis is conceived as a unique phenomenon that centers on the internal and most of the time simultaneous dialogues that take place in each of the two participants. This perspective underscores the impact of the analyst's subjectivity on the analytic process as well as the multiplicity of the patient's and the analyst's selves. In this context, therapeutic change can be seen most of the time as a transformation of genre and not necessarily as a modification of contents. Free association allows for the transgression of the basic rules of narrativity, thus facilitating a generic shift. A dialogical relation between the openness of free association and narrativity's coherence is suggested.

Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue [Bakhtin, 1963, p. 293].

A word like “self” naturally knows more than we do [Winnicott, 1960a, p. 158]

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