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Møller, L. (1990). The Analytical Theatre: Freud and Ibsen. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 13(2):112-128.
  

(1990). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 13(2):112-128

The Analytical Theatre: Freud and Ibsen

Lis Møller

Freud has said that the poets discovered the unconscious before psychoanalysis turned it into an object of systematic investigation. Literature and not least drama, from the tragedies of Greek dramatists, via Shakespeare, to Ibsen's social and “psychopathological” dramas, played an important part as a frame of reference in the formation of psychoanalytic theory. It is thus no coincidence that the Oedipus complex, which is frequently presented as the major discovery of psychoanalysis, was named not after the Oedipus of the myth but after the protagonist of Sophocles' tragedy. Nor should we be surprised that Freud turned to Shakespeare and Ibsen in order to argue the universal validity of the Oedipus complex. For in their “knowledge of the mind,” the poets, Freud maintained, “are far in advance of us everyday people” (Freud, 1907p. 8).

Freud's works show how literature in significant ways contributed to psychoanalytic conceptualization. However, his readings of literary and dramatic works formed the basis of a tradition of psychoanalytic literary criticism which had no intention of disputing theoretical assumptions, but on the contrary saw psychoanalytic theory as an established truth that could provide literary analysis with something like a scientific foundation. Focusing his attention on psychoanalytic problems rather than on literature for its own sake, Freud was most often content with outlining an interpretation of a given text.

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