The November issue of Bookslut is online, including my column on Freud. This month, I discuss Studies on Hysteria, volume II of the Standard Edition. In particular, I’m interested in Freud’s prefaces to his own works–moments when he addresses his readers directly:
The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud runs to 24 volumes: twenty-three volumes of content, plus an index. Its sheer bulk — not to mention the formidable list of concepts, controversies, case studies, and more found therein — is apt to leave any potential reader of Freud slightly overwhelmed. Where to begin? What’s more, since it sometimes seems as if every idea in Freud is vitally connected to every other idea, how can one begin to read Freud, without the project becoming wholly interminable? Conveniently, Freud has anticipated just this turn of events: In several prefaces across the Standard Edition, he directly speaks to readers looking for a starting point in psychoanalysis.
The column winds up in an interesting place, pointing out that the received interpretation of psychoanalysis as providing us with narratives about our lives doesn’t sit well with psychoanalysis as a theory or clinical practice:
Meanwhile, the “coherent narrative” that emerges in an analysis can hardly be the actual truth of one’s life. Instead, an analysis produces an “as if” narrative: “You seem to act as if some part of you believes…” Our “quirks and failures” do not derive from “any number of plot points”; however, we tend unconsciously to act as though that’s true. What psychoanalysis can do is help us realize these unconscious assumptions and fantasies exist, which is an important step toward possible self-transformation. If you stop at the point where you’re blaming your idiosyncrasies on others, then you’re not in analysis, you’re engaged in an expensive sort of self-love.
Read the whole thing!
Next month, Volume III: Early Psycho-Analytic Publications. (Plus, I fully expect, a Very Cool Interview.)