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Glenn, J. (2003). Freud's Literary Culture. By Graham Frankland, Ph.D. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. 260 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 72(3):823-826.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 72(3):823-826

Freud's Literary Culture. By Graham Frankland, Ph.D. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. 260 pp.

Review by:
Jules Glenn

Freud's Literary Culture is a truly remarkable book that will stir the reader to reread Freud's work from a fresh point of view. Frankland examines the effect of Freud's vast knowledge of Western literature on his thinking and writing. He puts aside the scientific question of the truth of Freud's findings and, to a great extent, Freud's clinical observations, as he concentrates on the impact of his literary heritage.

After noting the powerful influence of his prolific reading, including Goethe, Sophocles, and Shakespeare, Frankland turns to Freud's use of literary techniques and citations to win over, even seduce, the reader and overcome resistance to his revolutionary and disturbing ideas. Frankland also shows how these and other authors influenced the development of psychoanalytic theory. Freud believed that great writers intuitively understand psychoanalytic insights, but that he, a scientist, had to work extraordinarily hard to achieve these insights into human nature and psychic conflict. Indeed, Frankland, slighting Freud's clinical analytic observations of his patients, emphasizes Freud's acquiring knowledge from literature. As Kurt Eissler has previously pointed out, Freud did not simply understand literature and art by applying theory developed in a clinical setting. The great Dichter (creative writers) also taught him psychoanalytic theory, so to speak.

In an important chapter, Frankland discusses Freud as a literary critic, one who has had palpable influence on modern literary scholarship, and whose imaginative studies of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, and of minor works such as “Gradiva,” cast light on creativity. Frankland emphasizes that Freud's critical studies are fragmentary and unsystematic.

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