Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Love, Drive and Desire in the Works of Freud, Lacan and Proust

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Love, Drive and Desire in the Works of Freud, Lacan and Proust

Article excerpt

Both Freud and Lacan have made love the object of scientific enquiry, which is in itself remarkable, since we usually turn this subject over to literary and philosophical treatment. This article discusses Freud and Lacan's contributions to the psychology of love through dialogue with Marcel Proust's seminal novel, Remembrance of Things Past, with special emphasis on the middle sections.

The point of departure is love's manifestation in the analytical situation. Freud has described transference love as both resistance and as an extreme variant of normal falling in love, to which Lacan adds the deceptive character of transference. From transference love the investigation continues to the contradictions Freud has described in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality as love's affectionate and sensual currents. Lacan contributes the concept of desire, which must be distinguished from drive and love. The differentiation between desire, drive and love introduces the perspective necessary for a psychoanalytic reading of Proust's opus. The main objective is a reading of the protagonists, Albertine and the Baron de Charlus, as representatives of the vicissitudes of love and drive, respectively.

Keywords: desire, drive, love


Love is not a subject we expect to read about in a scholarly article. We are more likely to turn to literature or philosophy if we want to know more about love than our own life experience teaches us. Love's language not only resists scientific discourse but remains an oddity that evades our fumbling attempts to speak it. It is, in the words of Kristeva, "a flight of metaphors - it is literature" (Kristeva 1987, p. 1).

In this light it is remarkable that Freud (1910, 1912a, 1918a) has devoted three texts to an examination of the psychology of love. Indeed, he introduces these texts by remarking that the "necessary conditions for loving which governs people's object choices" are a topic which it has hitherto been the privilege of poets to treat (Freud 1910, p. 165). However, he continues, poets are "under the necessity to produce intellectual and aesthetic pleasure", which limits the value of the insights contained in their accounts (ibid.). Moreover, poets have only been marginally interested in the origin and development of love's final form. Having thus justified his scholarly approach to the topic, Freud describes and analyzes the division in human love which we know from our own lives and "whose treatment by artists has given enjoyment to mankind for thousands of years" (ibid).

Freud could not have written his three texts on the psychology of love without the theory of sexual drive that he introduced in his treatise from 1905, which in the Kuhnian sense (1962) represents a paradigmatic break with a traditional, biological understanding of human sexuality, since it refers the sexual drive to the domain of the psyche and proves its infantile and polymorphous origin. Nor could he have articulated his idea of love's division without the clinical experience he had amassed in his early clinical work, primarily with hysterics, which allowed him to observe one of love's manifestation soon christened transference love. Like other forms of love, transference love appears paradoxical. It simultaneously is created by the cure, constitutes the greatest form of resistance to the analytical work effort, and is the most visible expression of passionate love.

In the following I will discuss this paradoxical division in the nature of love. After presenting the psychoanalytic theories of Freud and Lacan concerning this division, I will read them into Marcel Proust's masterful portrayal of the complicated threads of love and sexuality as they entwine the narrator of his magnum opus, Remembrance of Things Past.

As mentioned above, transference created the basis for the first psychoanalytic knowledge of that which was later articulated as a division in human love. …

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