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Dervin, D. (1983). A Dialectical View of Creativity. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(4):463-491.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(4):463-491

A Dialectical View of Creativity

Daniel Dervin

Freud in his early formulations about the artist was essentially correct, or at least on the right track, and his later disclaimers that the psychoanalyst must lay down his arms before the creative artist were both premature and unduly modest. That may be the primary thrust of this article; but its final justification must be seen as an attempt to extricate creative processes from other systems or models of conflict within psychoanalysis, so that these processes may more clearly and legitimately stand out in their own right and be examined accordingly.

What were Freud's early formulations? They may be readily recalled from the 1908 paper on “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming,” the 1909 paper on “Family Romances,” and the 1911 contribution to metapsychology, “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning.” Here are the essential steps:

1.   Unable to meet demands for instinctual renunciation, the artist turns away from reality;

2.   In fantasy, like the child at play, the neurotic, or the dreaming adult, he gives vent to his erotic and ambitious wishes;

3.   But unlike the child or neurotic as such, the artist finds his way back to reality by molding his fantasies into a new kind of reality.

Having said this much, Freud is content to back off a bit and to speak of the artist's “special gifts,” and his “innermost secret; the

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* To Bryce Boyer, for his careful reading and critical suggestions, I am especially grateful.

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