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Priel, B. (1991). Disavowal in Fiction. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 18:19-26.

(1991). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18:19-26

Disavowal in Fiction

Beatrice Priel


Disavowal is assumed to constitute a main mechanism evoked through the reading of some fictional texts, mainly detective stories. Freud's

concept of disavowal is analysed and defined as the defence against those meanings of external perceptions that endanger the knowledge of reality we hitherto have had; in disavowal the meaning of the perception is split while the perceived remains unrecognized. Children's sexual theories are considered a prototype of disavowal. Disavowal is also studied in the context of superstitions and the essentially metonymical character of this mechanism is emphasized in the study of fetishism. The vicissitudes of disavowal and the reorganization of meaning following the awareness of this process are illustrated through a reading of three fictional texts: Poe's The Purloined Letter, Borges' Death and the Compas and James' The Figure in the Carpet. Disavowal is displayed as a main theme in these texts as well as being re-enacted in reading. The differences between the reader's experience of uncanniness produced by the return of the repressed on one hand and the pleasurable feeling produced by the disclosure of the disavowed on the other hand, are analysed.

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