Works of Art
- Firstly, these works often express in poetic form truths about the psyche, which implies that creative writers can intuit directly the truths which psychoanalysts only discover later by more laborious means.
- Secondly, Freud also argued that a close psychoanalytic reading of works of literature could uncover elements of the author's psyche.
While most of Freud's papers on particular works of art concern works of literature, he did not entirely neglect other art forms; for example he devoted one paper to discussing Michelangelo's statue of Moses.
Works of Art
- prose (e.g. the discussion of The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe),
- drama (e.g. the discussions of Shakespeare's Hamlet , and of Sophocles' Antigone ) and
- poetry (e.g. the discussion of Booz endormi by Victor Hugo).
Differences - Freud and Lacan
Psychology of the Artist
Though Lacan does speak about sublimation, unlike Freud he does not believe that it is possible or even desirable for psychoanalysts to say anything about the psychology of the artist on the basis of an examination of a work of art.
Discourse of the Analysand
In his suspension of the question of authorial intent, Lacan is not merely aligning himself with the structuralist movement (after all, authorial intent had been bracketed by New Criticism long before the structuralists appeared on the scene), but is rather illustrating the way in which the analyst should proceed when listening to and interpreting the discourse of the analysand.
You must start from the text, start by treating it, as Freud does and as he recommends, as Holy Writ. The author, the scribe, is only a pen-pusher, and he comes second. . . . Similarly, when it comes to our patients, please give more attention to the text than to the psychology of the author - the entire orientation of my teaching is that.
Method of Reading
Lacan's discussions of literary texts are thus not exercises in literary criticism for its own sake, but performances designed to give his audience an idea of how they are to read the unconscious of their patients.
This method of reading is similar to those employed by formalism and structuralism; the signified is neglected in favour of the signifier, content is bracketed in favour of formal structures. and by two of Derrida's followers.
Besides serving as models of a method of reading, which Lacan recommends analysts to follow when reading the discourse of their patients, Lacan's discussions of literary texts also aim to extract certain elements which serve as metaphors to illustrate some of his most important ideas.
"Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism"
A new branch of so-called "psychoanalytic literary criticism" now claims to be inspired by Lacan's approach to literary texts.
However, while such projects are interesting in their own right, they do not usually approach literature in the same way as Lacan.
That is, while psychoanalytic literary criticism aims to say something about the texts studied, both aspects of Lacan's approach (to illustrate a mode of analytic interpretation, and to illustrate psychoanalytic concepts) are concerned not with saying something about the texts themselves, but merely with using the texts to say something about psychoanalysis.
Whereas some of Freud's works are often taken to imply that psychoanalysis is a metadiscourse, a master narrative providing a general lutmeneutic key that can unlock the hitherto unsolved secrets of literary works, it is impossible to read Lacan as making any such claims.
Methods and Concepts
For Lacan, while psychoanalysis might be able to learn something about literature, or use literary works to illustrate certain of its methods and concepts, it is doubtful whether literary criticism can learn anything from psychoanalysis.
Hence Lacan rejects the idea that a literary criticism which makes use of psychoanalytic concepts could be called "applied psychoanalysis", since "[p]sychoanalysis is only applied, in the proper sense of the term, as a treatment, and thus to a subject who speaks and listens.").
- Freud, Sigmund. "The Moses of Michelangelo," 1914b. SE XIII, 211.
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. Ch. 16; Lacan, Jacques. 1955a. "Le séminaire sur 'La lettre volée'", in Jacques Lacan, Écrits, Paris: Seuil, 1966, pp. 11-61 ["Seminar on 'The Purloined Letter'", trans. Jeffrey Mehlman, Yale French Studies, 48 (1972): 38-72.
- Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VI. Le désir et son interprétation, 1958-59, published in part n Ornicar?, 24-27, 1981-83 ["Desire and Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet," trans. James Hulbert, Yale French Studies, vol. 55/6, 1977: 11-52].
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992., Chs. 19-21
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 218-25; Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre IV. La relation d'objet, 19566-57. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 377-8; Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications, 1977. p. 156-8; Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 158-9
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. Chs. 7-9, where he discusses Holbein's The Ambassadors; Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book VII. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-60. Trans. Dennis Porter. London: Routledge, 1992. p. 139-42
- See his critical remarks on "psychobiography"; Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. 740-1
- Lacan, Jacques. "Lituraterre," Littérature, no. 3, 1971. p. 3
- Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book II. The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 1954-55. Trans. Sylvana Tomaselli. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge Unviersity Press, 1988. p. 153
- Although Jacques Derrida has argued that Lacan does not in fact follow his own method; Derrida, Jacques 1975. "Le facteur de la vérité," in The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1987, pp. 413-96.
- Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe, and Nancy, Jean-Luc. 1973. Le Titre de la lettre, Paris: Galilée.
- Lacan, Jacques. Écrits. Paris: Seuil, 1966. p. 747