Telling Tales: The Hysteric's Seduction in Fiction and Theory

By Katherine Cummings | Go to book overview
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habitation by different subjects. Worse yet, neither parent nor infant is restricted to the real or limited to an actuality, but each occupies a place within the imaginary where s/he functions (equally for children and exclusively for adults) as a powerful imago instead. As imagoes, the two figures are already introjections, which have been cast within and (prompt what later will be) acted out. In detecting/ directing their acting, Freud added on to his original cycle. From an involvement in the psychoanalytic scene, he projected seduction outwards, remarking upon the universality of the transference. Essentially, his recitation tells the story of seduction backwards--thus turning it inside out.


With the narrative of superego development, the name "father" is translated differently and seduction transferred back within. Thus, the movement is from the therapeutic space (which embraces the family and, at minimum, the patient's psyche), to the smaller family circle (and the desires that are there acted out), and finally to the cramped quarters of the psyche itself (into which must be fit the family scene and/or the paternal romance). Generally, Freud's metafiction of superego and its relations to ego and id altered Oedipal history both by changing the initial setting of the performance and, more significantly, by shifting its players so that the internal drama to be enacted as metapsychology would have a decidedly feminine cast.

The language these players speak is especially telling. Mastery, renunciation, and sacrifice are the central signifiers of Freud's superego script. While all three are common components of father-daughter relations, as Freud heard and described them, they (and most especially renunciation) are notably foreign to the rivalrous relations between father and son.

Here, the relevant text is The Ego and the Id. The superego of Freud's 1923 text is fundamentally a simulacrum, appearing first under the cover of ego-ideal. In this disguise, the superego is nothing more than "a substitute for a longing for the father" (27). "Moses" ( 1939) lends the father more (of a) character but also introduces the ego as a tacitly feminine part. The interchange between them is as


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Telling Tales: The Hysteric's Seduction in Fiction and Theory


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