Literature and Psychoanalysis

By Edith Kurzweil; William Phillips | Go to book overview

style!" ("une femme qui ne me plaisait pas, qui n'était pas mon genre!") 5

As a fictional personality, Swann is quite remote from Freud, of course, and from the flavor that gives our text on Narcissism its charm as literature, a rather Herr-Professorish charm in a slightly Blue Angel sort of way. We are not dealing, therefore, with mere character similarities. What Proust derides, with gentle humor, is an extremely widespread delusion, the same, evidently to which the mythical psychic entity known as narcissism owes both its existence and persistent popularity.


Notes
1.
Sigmund Freud, "On Narcissism: An Introduction", in General Psychological Theory ( New York: Collier Books, 1963), pp. 56-82.
3.
Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove, translated by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff ( New York: Vintage Books, 1970), p. 271.
5.
Marcel Proust, Swann's Way ( New York: Vintage Books, 1970), p. 292. The theoretician of narcissism is still, like Swann but unlike Proust, in the position of the desiring subject, because he does not know it. In order to confirm this point, I will quote, in Narcissism, the lines that come immediately before and after the passage discussed above. They speak for themselves:

A different course is followed in the type most frequently met with in women, which is probably the purest and truest feminine type. With the development of puberty the maturing of the female sex organs, which up till then have been in a condition of latency, seems to bring about an intensification of the original narcissism, and this is unfavorable to the development of a true object-love with its accompanying sexual over-estimation; there arises in the woman a certain self-sufficiency (especially when there is a ripening into a beauty) which compensates her for the social restrictions upon her object-choice. Strictly speaking, such women love only themselves with an intensity comparable to that of the man's love for them. Nor does their need lie in the direction of loving, but of being loved; and that man finds favour with them who fulfills this condition. The importance of this type of woman for the erotic life of mankind must be recognized as very great. Such women have the greatest fascination for men, not only for aesthetic reasons, since as a rule they are the most beautiful, but also because of certain interesting psychological constellations. . . .

Perhaps it is not superfluous to give an assurance that, in this description of the feminine form of erotic life, no tendency to depreciate woman has any part. Apart from the fact that tendentiousness is alien to me, I also know that these different lines of development correspond to the differentiation of functions in a highly complicated biological connection; further, I am ready to admit that there are countless women who love according to the masculine type and who develop the over-estimation of the sexual object so characteristic of that type (pp. 69-71).

-376-

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