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Kittangau, A. (1990). Can Psychoanalytical Theory Contribute to our Understanding of Literary Art?. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 13(2):103-111.

(1990). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 13(2):103-111

Can Psychoanalytical Theory Contribute to our Understanding of Literary Art?

Atle Kittangau

The question which will concern me in this article is summarized in its title: Can psychoanalytical theory contribute to our understanding of literary art? However, this way of formulating the problem is treacherous. An aesthetic question (about the art of literature) is apparently posed in hermeneutic terms (as a problem of understanding), as if the central aspect of literary art were coextensive with the content transmissed by literary texts. The main parts of what follows will refute this view. However, this means that my answer to the above question, insofar as it is in the affirmative, may be difficult to accept for psychoanalysts as well as for the theorists of literature.

Nobody will deny that Freud has introduced a new perspective in the understanding of human behaviour. The concept of the unconscious, the distinction between manifest and latent meaning, the analysis of the intrapsychic work in terms of an intricate process of concealment and unconcealment, the introduction of new interpretive techniques supported by concepts such as displacement, condensation, symbolization, overdetermination, etc., all this has contributed decisively to a radical reformulation of our traditional ideas about interpretation in general.


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