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Blades, M.W. (1989). Identity Theme and Mythe Personnel: Two Views of the Rat Man. Am. Imago, 46(1):85-103.

(1989). American Imago, 46(1):85-103

Identity Theme and Mythe Personnel: Two Views of the Rat Man

Margaret W. Blades

The strengths of American psychoanalysis derive partly from a reliance on hard data and a medical pragmatism that emphasizes diagnosis and treatment, and partly from a belief in scientific veracity that categorizes diseases and labels etiologies. American theoretical and literary psychoanalytic criticism, while less bound by the constraints of science, also has a pragmatic interest in people's psyches. European psychoanalytic criticism relies more heavily on a philosophical and theoretical base, and has as its aim the elucidation of theoretical and even philosophical problems as they manifest themselves in literary works or in case histories of neurotics, which sometimes read like novels or short stories. A comparison of two studies of Freud's so-called “Rat Man,” the first by Norman Holland and the second by Jacques Lacan demonstrates this opposition between a pragmatic stance and a theoretical-philosophical stance. The titles of the two studies announce the predisposition of the two analytic critics, Holland's being “An Identity for the Rat Man(Holland, 1975) and his section on the Rat Man in The I (1985), where the ideas underwent some revision, and Lacan's “The Neurotic's Individual Myth(Lacan, 1953). Each title reflects the writer's concern with the primary ideas endemic to his culture, background, and education. In this paper, I will sketch the themes and theses of these two writers in their analyses of Freud's case, and then compare the tone and approach of two assessments of the Rat-Man. In addition, I will show where the two critics have had a blind spot in their analyses which has caused them to leave out an essential part of the case.

I am concerned here with the essential symptoms of the case, which are as follows (Rothgeb, 1973).

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