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Reisner, G. (2007). Death & the Fear of Finiteness in Hamlet. By Jerome Oremland. San Francisco: Lake Street Editions, 2005, 147 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(5):841-847.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(5):841-847

Death & the Fear of Finiteness in Hamlet. By Jerome Oremland. San Francisco: Lake Street Editions, 2005, 147 pp.

Review by:
Gavriel Reisner

Jerome Oremland, a writer who has done important work on the psychoanalytic approach to creativity,1 offers some significant perceptions in this study of Hamlet. In an early instance, he notes that the “psychoanalytic interpretation of works of art becomes a kind of dialogue between the viewer's and the artist's conscious and unconscious guided by the images” (p. 6). The notion of an interplay of minds mediated by artistic form is quite evocative; it opens to a hall of inner mirrors, a psychological mise en abîme where a critic by being probing and open about himself or herself might find corresponding elements in the artist and/or the work being studied. If it could, potentially, lead to a kind of “wild psychoanalysis” in criticism, speculation in the abyss, then so be it, for in our postmodern era, after Derrida and Lacan, it is difficult to take interest in criticism that lacks any element of wildness. But like other promising insights, the point is made, then left as an abandoned intuition.

The lack or realization in this critique occurs because its insights are not worked through the text in a vivid and actual way. (Similarly, analytic insights demand being worked through the narrative of the patient.) The question of such working-through would be interesting to engage on its own. Suffice it to say that it would work in criticism as it does in teaching or therapy; insights are reached in an interplay of diversity and iteration, bringing forward a new synthesis from already-considered thoughts. Oremland diversifies without the illuminating repetitions of closure.

In the first chapter Oremland talks about his interpretive scheme. He argues that literature needs to be read on three levels: the topical or purposive, connected to both the reasons for its commission and the general thrust of the narrative (actually two quite separate issues); the personal or (auto)biographical, the dynamic interaction of the artist and the work; and the archetypical or “universals integral to human development.”

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