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Kristiansen, S. (2013). The psychoanalyst and the poet ― a meeting between Sigmund Freud and Rainer Maria Rilke 1. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 36(1):52-56.

(2013). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 36(1):52-56

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The psychoanalyst and the poet ― a meeting between Sigmund Freud and Rainer Maria Rilke 1

Sølvi Kristiansen

Psychoanalysis was attracted to literature from the very beginning. The first psychoanalytic remark on literature was probably Freud's analysis of Hamlet and Oedipus Rex in his letter to Wilhelm Fliess in 1897 (Masson, 1985). He found in these famous dramas a confirmation of what he had discovered through his self-analysis ― the powerful impact of the love for the mother and rivalry towards the father. As we recognize the conflicts in these dramas within ourselves, we still love to read and watch them. Later, Freud approaches literature in different manners: he analyses specific novels, he explores the distinct psychological experience of reading, and he makes psycho-biographical interpretations of the authors. According to Strachey (cited in Segal, 1991, p. 74) Freud refers to literature and art in 22 of his writings. The mutual attraction between psychoanalysis and literature is also demonstrated through the many great authors' interest in Freud, and by the numerous articles, books and seminars conducted by literary critics on the topic of literature and psychoanalysis.

Why this attraction? The complexity of relations between psychoanalysis and literature calls for more than a single answer, not least when taking into account that we can hardly speak of one psychoanalysis or one literature. One possible approach to this complex field is to study concrete encounters between psychoanalysis and literature ― in other words, to do a “case-study”, a method well-known within clinical psychoanalysis.

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