Literature and Psychoanalysis

By Edith Kurzweil; William Phillips | Go to book overview

6.
Observations on Psychoanalysis and Modern Literature

Erich Heller

IN THE HISTORY of thought it occurs again and again that a privileged mind turns a long-nurtured suspicion into a system and puts it to the good, or not so good, uses of teachers and learners. When this happens, we say that it has been in the air for a long time. This is so in the case of psychoanalysis, and whatever its future fate, its historical importance is beyond doubt. For it is impossible not to come into contact with it or to avoid the collision, even if one merely wanted to say to it that it has no business being there. A theory owes this kind of inescapability to its long maturation in the womb of Time. It is born and casts its spell upon a world that seems to have been prepared for quite a while to receive it. Pallas Athene, it is said, sprang from her father's head in full armor. But surely, before this birth took place Zeus must have spent many a day pondering Athenian thoughts and must have done so in the Athenian dialect; and our world had awaited Freud long before it heard his name.

This is why psychoanalysis appears to be more than merely one among many possible theories about the psyche; rather, it comes close to being the systematic consciousness that a certain epoch has of the

From Psychiatry and the Humanities, Joseph H. Smith, M.D., ed. ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 1:35-50. Copyright © 1976 Yale University Press. Reprinted by permission.

-72-

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