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Freud on Psycholanalystic Literary Theory

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 major 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 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. There is therefore a strong motive for concealment on the part of adult daydreamers. Fantasy hovers between three periods...

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Freud on Psycholanalystic Literary Theory. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 09:42, September 01, 2014, from