Some Literary Perspectives
Author: David Gordon
Even before I had this book in my hands, I was thankful that I happen to be a member of a Facebook group that brought it to my attention. When I opened the book, the first thing that came to my notice was that these essays were part of an accumulation of past writing for author David Gordon. As a writer I can identify with that – coming across something that I have written in the past, and “re-entering”, as it were, that world.
“Freud – Some Literary Perspectives” is a series of nine essays based on Freud, and his ideas in literary context. I admire Freud greatly, and found that looking at his work from a literary, as opposed to a psychological, standpoint opened up new lines of thought.
The book begins by looking at the comic element in Freud’s tragic vision, and at the vulnerability of the ego. The two basic forms of comedy are shown as they are reflected in Freud’s work. Literary critic Harold Bloom is quoted as linking Freud and Marcel Proust as “tragic celebrants of the comic spirit”.
This is followed by an essay on Bloom himself, and his criticism of Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of mind. There are some interesting thoughts here on the apocalyptic humanism of Romantic psychology versus the naturalistic humanism of Freudian psychology.
I truly enjoyed the essay on the cognitive challenge between Darwin’s and Freud’s major theories – it opened up new lines of thinking on both gentlemen.
The essay on novelists competing with Freud was an eye-opener! The concept here is that certain novelists replace Freud’s picture of the mind with their own, competitive picture. The writers discussed here are D. H. Lawrence, Iris Murdoch, and Marilynne Robinson.
The concept of memory has its own essay, based on Marcel Proust and cognitive neuroscience. Involuntary memory, and inaccurate memory are two of the issues discussed.
Gordon also presents an essay that by title alone was fascinating to me: “Imagining One’s Own Death: Freud and the Poets”. Freud is quotes as commenting: “It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death; and whenever we make the attempt to do so we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectator.”
Freud’s interpretation of Hamlet, including a belief in an Oedipus Complex, is discussed in another essay. It is fascinating to look at each of the characters and see what part they play from both a literary and a psychoanalytical point of view.
In the essay “Georg Bandes and Sigmund Freud: Good Europeans”, we see, as the Gordon intends, Freud as a man in his European setting, as opposed to Freud as a shaper of modern thought. Very enlightening!
Finally, we come to the essay on cultural perspective, on the value of psychoanalysis today.
There is a wonderful essay at the end of the book by Camelia Elias, entitled “Singular Time: Three Freudian Essentials”. It is about appreciating the poetry of psychoanalysis, and the poetics of experience a life’s event through psychoanalysis. It is all about the story!
This book has much more to offer than I can say. I am a layperson reviewing the work of a professional (Gordon) – there is depth here that you won’t get from this review. I found Gordon’s work to be more than interesting, very well organized, well written, and well documented. The inclusion of the essay by Elias was a gift to the reader!
© 2000 – 2014 Bonnie Cehovet
Copyright prohibited without permission of the author.