Psychoanalysis and Literature
Melvyn Bragg assesses whether Freudian theory reinvents our appreciation of literature before Freud, and explores how important Freudian analysis is to understanding the great works of literature.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss role of Freudian analysis in understanding the great works of literature. Freud said, “The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious. What I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscious can be studied”. Psychoanalysis has always been more than a ‘talking cure’ and it has strong ties to literature, but one hundred years after the publication of the first great work of psychoanalysis, The Interpretation of Dreams, critics are putting the scientific basis of Freud’s work in grave doubt and he is in danger of being pitched in with poets. The great American critic Harold Bloom has said “Freud, the writer will survive the death of psychoanalysis”, and the analyst and writer Adam Phillips seems to go further in his new book Promises Promises where he writes, “I think of Freud as a romantic writer, and I read psychoanalysis as poetry, so I don’t have to worry whether it is true or even useful”.So what is the relationship of psychoanalysis to literature, and if it is to be reclassified as literature itself can it still be practised as a talking cure?With Adam Phillips, author of Promises Promises: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Literature; Malcolm Bowie, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature, Oxford University; Lisa Appignanesi novelist and co-author of Freud’s Women.