Psychoanalysis and 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?

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  • Adam Phillips 4 episodes
    Author of Promises Promises: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Literature
  • Malcolm Bowie 5 episodes
    Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature, Oxford University
  • Lisa Appignanesi No other episodes
    Novelist and co-author of Freud's Women

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, Freud said, the poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious.