Freud on Psycholanalystic Literary Theory

Length: 3 Pages 816 Words

Freud begins his article by wondering how the poet come by his material, and what makes him able to carry us with him in such a way and to arouse emotions in us of which we thought ourselves perhaps not even capable. Freud suggests trying to find some activity in ourselves which is in any way similar to the writing of imaginative works. He deems it appropriate to look to the child for the first traces of imaginative activity – play. Children take their play very seriously and expend much emotion on it, but can still distinguish it perfectly from its opposite, reality. The write does the same as the child at play – he creates a world of fantasy which he takes very seriously, investing it with a great deal of affect while separating it sharply from reality. The unreality of this poetical world of imagination, however, has very important consequences for literary technique, for many things if they had happened in real life could produce no pleasure can nevertheless give enjoyment in play. As children grow up, they cease to play and appear to give up the pleasure they derived from play, but in reality, they have merely substituted the creation of fantasy, and indulgence in day-dreaming, for play. Freud notes that there is a majo Continue...


r difference between children's play and the daydreaming of adults, in that children do not conceal their play from adults while adults are ashamed for their day-dreams and conceal them from others. He feels that the motives that lie behind these two activities contain a very good reason form this differing in behavior. The true enjoyment of literature is from the release of tensions in our minds, brought about by the writer's putting us into a position in which we can enjoy our own daydreams without reproach or shame. How does the poet relate to the daydreamer Freud specifically deals in his article with poets who create their material spontaneously, but not those poets who are most highly esteemed by critics. From there it wanders back to the memory of an early experience in which a wish was fulfilled. This significant mark of invulnerability very clearly betrays the ego, the hero of all daydreams and novels. This trend extends to psychological novels as well (these novels differ from the aforementioned ones in that their authors split up their ego into many component egos and personify the conflicting trends in their own mental life by creating many heroes). There is therefore a strong motive for concealment on the part of adult daydreamers. Freud is able to include in his theory the class of writers that do not spontaneously produce their work but rework ready-made material, such as myths, legends and fairy tales; he feels that the myths are distorted vestiges of the wish fulfillment fantasies of whole nations. The stress laid on the writer's memories of his childhood is ultimately derived from the hypothesis that imaginative creation, like daydreaming, is a continuation of and substitute for the play of childhood. There is one very marked characteristic that these writers have in common - they all have a hero who is the center of interest, for whom the author tries to win our sympathy by every possible means, and whom he places under the protection of a special providence. Fantasy hovers between three periods of time simultaneously: the activity of fantasy in the mind is linked up with some current impression which had the power to rouse an intense desire. The play of children is determined by their wish to be grown-up - a desire deemed as healthy, while the day-dreams of adults are motivated by hidden, 'shameful' unsatisfied wishes: either ambitious wishes, serving to exalt the person creating them, or erotic wishes. Freud goes on to examine the works of writers in reference to the relation of the fantasy to the wish that runs through it and to the three periods of time.