Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Mind as Text: Freud's "Typographical" Model of the Mind

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Mind as Text: Freud's "Typographical" Model of the Mind

Article excerpt

Things that have to do with love are incommensurable with everything else; they are, as it were, written on a special page on which no other writing is tolerated.

-Freud 1915, 160

Much has been written about the literary Freud. A substantial body of scholarship addresses his myriad literary influences, references, achievements, and aspirations, which have been understood as intuitive extensions of the pre-eminent role of language in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis: humanistic counterpoints to his overriding scientific purpose (an incomplete list of contributions includes Anzieu 1986; Belletini 2007; Chamberlain 2000; Frankland 2000; Gornick 1987; Greenberg 1997; Kolb 2013; Kupper and Rollman-Branch 1959; Leclaire 1969; Mahony 1996; Marcus 1976, 1987; Meisel 2006; Møller 1991; Paul 2006; Piccioli, Rossi, and Semi 1996; Simanke 2017; Wagenknecht 1998). Also well explored is the overarching impact of Freud's sociopolitical and cultural milieu on his theorizing (Gay 1988; Makari 2008; Schorske 1980; Whitebook 2017). However, scant attention has been paid to the prospects and process of publishing in Freud's time and place, or to their potential impact on his work.

In the present effort, I situate Freud's early theorizing and engagement with the text within the reality of the strict governmental censorship of all publications in fin-de-siecle Europe, which responded to highly charged societal concerns over the corrupting influence of the text. Thus contextualized, Freud's correspondence and published work encourage the conjecture that his topographical model proceeded from an earlier proto-model-what we might call a "typographical model"-in which he conceived of the mind as a "text." In this conjecture, a subversive manuscript corresponded to the precursor to the unconscious mind, while the precursor to the conscious mind was represented by the published version ofthat text, publishable and thereby accessible only after passing the censor, which in internalized form carried over to the topographical model. Moreover, I will argue that Freud did not completely abandon this proto-model, but rather continued to selectively enlist it as a substrate for future theorizing. These conjectures have implications for the development of several aspects of the psychoanalytic project, including the structure of the dynamic unconscious and the defences that operate on it; the postulation of a libidinal drive; the internalization of object representations; and the dialectics of reality intrinsic to the analytic process.

The psychoanalytic project was born of Freud's overriding interest in language, a reflection of the intellectual interests of his day as much as his personal and passionate literary preoccupations. During the late nineteenth century, language was the subject of intensive investigation, the crux ofthat which distinguishes man from other animals (what makes us human), as well as that which distinguishes one individual from another (what makes us unique; see Benes 2008). Freud was consumed with both distinctions. Identifying the psyche as the shared domain of the psychoanalyst and the creative writer, and constantly mining literary texts to further his understanding of the psyche, he also understood those texts as embodiments of the author's mind. Thus, he considered the text as valid an "object of a systematic, if not scientific investigation" as the psyche (Møller 1991, 6). This was clear early on: "even at the very beginning of his career... Freud read texts the way he was later to read patients" (Greenberg 1997, 9). During Freud's courtship of Martha Bernays,

the couple wrote to each other daily, and sometimes twice a day, starting from when they met in 1882 to when they married in 1886. In the voluminous cache of love letters, the young doctor already showed hints of where his interests lay. "He started classifying her letters as either 'open' or 'concealed'. in which she opened herself to him or concealed herself," said Margaret McAleer, senior archives specialist at the Library of Congress. …

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