Literature and Psychoanalysis

By Edith Kurzweil; William Phillips | Go to book overview

PART II
LITERARY APPROACHES AND THEORIES

UNLIKE THE PRECEDING ESSAYS, all written in the flush of Freud's early discoveries, and thus for the most part showing the relation between unconscious processes in artists and the creation of their works, the essays in the following section take this connection for granted. They stress that Freud did not invent the unconscious, but only its scientific study. They explore Freud's own changing ideas, such as his original notion of art as the result of neurosis, and later postulations of only a unique relationship between the two -- a relationship deriving from, or exploited by, individual talent. Yet these authors all pay tribute to Freud's scientific discoveries, and to their relevance to literature.

Erich Heller opens his essay by arguing that the world had been ready for Freud long before he arrived, and that no one remains untouched by his thought: it is everywhere around us, part of the Zeitgeist. To prove his point, he outlines a scene from Death in Venice where Aschenbach's real will is revealed, when, after having decided to leave Venice, his suitcase is lost, thus impeding his departure. That Aschenbach "was almost convulsed with reckless delight, an unbelievable joy," is the manifestation of his unconscious desire to stay in Venice, of "fate."

Again, in The Magic Mountain, Hans Castorp waits seven years for the return of the Russian woman he had secretly fallen in love with, all the while using his minor illness as a pretext for remaining. Heller demonstrates that in both instances Mann developed characters as if tailored to "prove" Freud's theories, although he had not yet read Freud. Heller attributes this to the continuing fascination with Romanticism, and with the alliance between love, death, and sickness, as well as to the promises

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