Promises, Promises: Essays on Literature and Psychoanalysis

Promises, Promises: Essays on Literature and Psychoanalysis

Promises, Promises: Essays on Literature and Psychoanalysis

Promises, Promises: Essays on Literature and Psychoanalysis

Synopsis

Written in his beloved epigrammatic and aphoristic style, Equals extends Adam Phillip's probings into the psychological and the political, bringing his trenchant wit to such subjects as the usefulness of inhibitions and the paradox of permissive authority. He explores why citizens in a democracy are so eager to establish levels of hierarchy when the system is based on the assumption that every man is created equal. And he ponders the importance of mockery in group behavior, and the psyche's struggle as a metaphor for political conflict.

Excerpt

'I regard writing not as an investigation of character,' Evelyn Waugh said in an interview, 'but as an exercise in the use of language, and with this I am obsessed.I have no technical psychological interest. It is drama, speech and events that interest me.' Psychoanalysis is, of course, an investigation of character and, both as theory and practice, an exercise in the use of language.As a therapy it investigates character in language in order to make people happier, and find their lives more interesting. But it also is, and has, a technical psychological interest. It gives us the opportunity, unlike what was once called Literature, to see exactly what that might be; and why, if at all, that might be a better thing to have than a psychological interest or, more simply, an interest in the uses of language. What does it say about the various projects of psychoanalysis that they require — unlike the infinitely more various projects of literature — the kind of interest Waugh doesn't need, to be the great novelist that he is? The pieces in this book provide, among other things, an impressionistic approach to these questions.They wonder, with Waugh's shrewd distinctions in mind, what the language of psychoanalysis, and the languages of literature, might be good for — and what they've got to do with each other.

Waugh's writing, obsessed as it is with mothers (the nursery, drinking and so on), and malice, and development (knowing, or in the case of Waugh's characters, not knowing, what to do when), and madness (which is referred to in Decline and Fall as . . .

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