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Kerr, J. (1988). The Devil's Elixirs, Jung's “Theology,” And The Dissolution of Freud's “Poisoning Complex”. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(1):1-33.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(1):1-33

The Devil's Elixirs, Jung's “Theology,” And The Dissolution of Freud's “Poisoning Complex”

John Kerr, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis and literature have from the beginning stood in the uneasy relationship of half-brothers unsure of their shares in a single estate. These half-brothers have at times acted as though their own claims were best served by invoking ties of the closest kinship between them. Then again, at other times, they have abruptly reversed themselves and each has insisted, with renewed vigor, that his lineage needs to be distinguished from the other's, that his is a different paternity. Accordingly, one enters into any arrangement with the two brothers with a certain apprehension: What was gladly agreed to today may be tomorrow's point of contention.

Let us begin, then, with the gentlest of discriminations: One of these half-brothers is clearly the elder, and though the younger may protest his greater acuity, the claims of the first-born should be heard first. Thus, we should note, with Ellenberger (1970), Holt (1978), and Rudnytsky (1987), that the literature and philosophy of the Romantic movement, both in Germany and elsewhere, provided the first dynamic psychiatry with many of its themes and issues, and that these then subsequently made their way into psychoanalysis. The literary motif of the doppelgänger, to take but one example, appears to have rematerialized in French psychopathology as “multiple personality,” and to have subsequently come down to us in the form of “splitting,” that most disturbing concept which has lately been seen haunting the clinical imagination.

In what follows, I shall focus on the impact exerted on the history of psychoanalysis by a single work from the Romantic tradition, E. T. A. Hoffmann's The Devil's Elixirs (1816).

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