Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Freuds Lektüren: Von Arthur Conan Doyle Bis Zu Arthur Schnitzler [Freud's Reading: From Arthur Conan Doyle to Arthur Schnitzler]

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Freuds Lektüren: Von Arthur Conan Doyle Bis Zu Arthur Schnitzler [Freud's Reading: From Arthur Conan Doyle to Arthur Schnitzler]

Article excerpt

Freuds Lektüren: Von Arthur Conan Doyle bis zu Arthur Schnitzler [Freud's reading: From Arthur Conan Doyle to Arthur Schnitzler] by Michael Rohrwasser Giessen: Psychosozial Verlag. 2005. 404 p. Reviewed by Friedrich-Wilhelm Eickhoff,1 Engelfriedshalde 20, D-72076 Tübingen, Germany - fweickhoff@t-online.de

This invaluable study by the literary critic and professor of contemporary German literature at the Freie Universität, Berlin and formerly of Vienna, which addresses the reciprocal relationship between literature and psychoanalysis, formulating the thesis that 'psychoanalysis is fundamentally an interpretive technique and a theory of art' is-without any explicit reference to his 150th birthday-an unexpected, albeit critical, tribute to Sigmund Freud. The author begins with Umberto Eco's insight-indirectly portrayed in his novel Foucault's pendulum (1990)-that the admission of a missing key can open the door to a closed text and thereby safeguard against any superfi cial deciphering, thus an ironic message in the form of the failing detective (p. 9). Rohrwasser interprets Freud 'as a modern author, acting as decipherer, detective, translator and archaeologist', who 'not only solves the enigma but also constructs it' (pp. 15-6). Rather than examining Freud's private reading (for which see Brückner, 1975), Rohrwasser reviews the public lectures and his interpretations and commentaries on literature, including those sent exclusively to his friend in Berlin, Wilhelm Fliess, and he reveals the covert writing process by which Freud became the writer's rivalrous counterpart. This perspective sheds an unusual light on the 'uncanny feeling of familiarity' and 'awe of meeting my "double"' (Jones, 1957, p. 474) that Freud admitted to Arthur Schnitzler in a letter on his 60th birthday, to the extent that it is not only Schnitzler who emerges as an 'explorer of the depths' (p. 474) but also implicitly Freud as a writer. Psychoanalysis and literary modernity were united by the 'deep grasp of the truths of the unconscious and of the biological nature of man' (p. 474). Rohrwasser selects four of the dream narratives on which Freud commented-E. T. A. Hoffmann's uncanny tale 'The sandman', three novellas by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Wilhelm Jensen's Gradiva: A Pompeian phantasy play and Arthur Schnitzler's The prophecy-and he fi nally examines Elias Canetti's tacit debate with Freud in his brilliant novel Auto da fé (1946). However, he has neglected Freud's reading and interpretation of two autobiographical texts, namely Daniel Paul Schreber's Memoirs of my nervous illness and the story of the painter Christoph Haizmann, evidently on account of their predominantly clinical relevance.

This study reveals a fascinatingly close proximity between psychoanalytic and literary hermeneutics, which qualifi es the distinction between oral and written speech and emphasizes the poetic function of language both in psychoanalysis and in literary interpretation. Rohrwasser gives a meticulous account of Freud's concept of deferred action (Nachträglichkeit), recalling for example its anticipation by Meyer, acknowledged by Freud (letter to Fliess of 9 June 1898, see Masson, 1985, p. 316). However, Rohrwasser also keeps sight of the 'original constellation of psychoanalysis' (p. 370), the consulting room, which following Rohrwasser (p. 370) Ricoeur and Habermas-thus a critical comment-had tacitly left behind in their discussions concerning hermeneutic psychoanalysis.

Freud had evidently confi ded a predilection for detective stories to his daughter Anna and it was Serge Pankejeff, the Wolf Man, who wrote in his memoirs of his surprise that Freud was familiar with Conan Doyle and his fi ctional character Sherlock Holmes, and in no way rejected 'this type of light reading matter' (Gardiner, 1972, p. 146). In his fi rst chapter, 'Freud and Sherlock Holmes', mainly devoted to 'The "uncanny"' (Freud, 1919), Rohrwasser then adduces a wealth of references to Edgar Allan Poe, Carlo Ginzburg, Charles Sander Peirce and Morelli to support his thesis that it is Arthur Conan Doyle rather than Hoffmann who embodies the clandestine ideal for Freud. …

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