Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Psychoanalysis: Quotes and Critics

Of all the comments I get about The Therapist’s New Clothes, no one has mentioned the quotes that appear before the text:

“We may have thought there was bad stuff in there, but we didn’t know how bad. But since it was in the name of healing, we accept it.” D.H. Lawrence

“Psychoanalysis is that mental illness of which it believes itself to be the cure.” Karl Kraus

I thought those were such nifty quotes! And how many people know that D.H. Lawrence wrote two books on psychoanalysis? Though I do remember that Sons and Lovers was required reading in a college course called “Psychoanalysis and Literature”. What a great class that was – I remember writing a paper in which I applied concepts from The Interpretation of Dreams (displacement, condensation, portmanteau words) to Alice in Wonderland. Those were the days...

I’ve seen variations of the Kraus quote around (though I don’t remember seeing it during my heyday as an analysand/training therapist, when I could have used a clever jolt like that.) Beyond that, Kraus is a character I’ve come to know quite well as he is one corner of the love triangle that drives the novel I’m working on. Such a brilliant, brittle character, a master of the aphorism and the aphoristic insult, arguably the first critic of the mass media. His magazine, Die Fackel (The Torch), was written in the spirit of today’s best political blogs. He nailed the hypocrisy of public figures. He loved pointing out errors in The Neue Freie Presse, which was 1900 Vienna’s equivalent of The New York Times. And he took every opportunity to diss psychoanalysis, to the extent that he has been called the “anti-Freud”. For example: “Psychoanalysts pick our dreams as if they were our pockets”; “Psychology is the last resort of incompetence”; and "Psychology is as useful as are directions for how to take poison." You get the idea.

A few years ago I went to Vienna with my brother, Fred, who is an art historian and German scholar—based in London and Scotland, so I rarely get to see him. It was an amazing trip, just the two of us moving through this spectacular city, steeping ourselves in its present and past. Between his knowledge of language, art and architecture and my knowledge of psychoanalytic history and cafe culture, the place was an intellectual playground for us--but one with really good food and wine. In one used bookstore (District 8, Josefstadt, it would have been) we found several copies of Die Fackel. Fred bought an issue, I’m not sure which one.Die Fackel was known for its modest size and its bright red cover. Resemble any book you know?

1 comment:

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