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Meissner, W.W. (2000). Poor Folk: Some Characters Of Dostoevsky. Psychoanal. Rev., 87(6):757-798.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Review, 87(6):757-798

Poor Folk: Some Characters Of Dostoevsky

W. W. Meissner, Ph.D., S.J.

In an era in which so much has been made of the role of narrative in psychoanalytic understanding and praxis, it is only a small step to apply analytic ideas to literature. Spence's (1982) discussion of the place of narrative truth as opposed to historical truth, that is, the story the patient tells versus the story of the patient's actual lived experience, and the further elaboration of the notion of narrative discourse by Schafer (1992) have brought the lineaments of the story and its telling into clearer focus as contributing aspects of the psychoanalytic dialogue.

Along similar lines, Baudry's (1984, 1990, 1991, 1992) extension of the notion of character and its development in both literary and psychoanalytic contexts lends support to a continuing analytic interest in the development of literary character. The enterprise is not entirely foreign to analytic interests, insofar as the parallels between the study of the patient's character in analysis and the analysis of literary character provide a rich field for analytic study (Meissner, 1973). This perspective adds a refinement to the narrative purview by emphasizing character in addition to plot. In analysis, the relation between plot and character is by no means simple or direct, but an abiding analytic concern remains the issue of how much the storyline determines character and how much the patient's character determines the storyline. The same issues come into focus in the analytic study of literary character (Baudry, 1990; Meissner, 1973).

Analysis of Literary Character

Freud's research into the psychology of literary character and into the literary process itself had a profound influence on the evolution of psychoanalysis.

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