Speaking Desires can be Dangerous

Speaking Desires can be Dangerous : The Poetics of the Unconscious

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This new book is a lively and original study of psychoanalysis and its relations to the arts.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 152.7 x 229.6 x 16mm | 308.45g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0
  • 0745619681
  • 9780745619682
  • 1,572,024

Back cover copy

Although psychoanalytic criticism has long been established as a practice in its own right, dialogue between the clinical and aesthetic has so far been perfunctory. This innovative book sets out to show in detail that there is a poetics of the unconscious equally at work in both domains, the critical potential of which has been missed by both sides.


In Part I, Wright focuses on the discoveries of Freudian psychoanalysis and demonstrates how the fundamental fantasies emerging in clinical practice are uncannily shared by works of art. This devotion of the unconscious to its phantasmic history is illustrated with examples from Freud, surrealist painting and Julia Kristeva's work on melancholia. In Part II, the focus shifts to Lacan's view of language as a means of agitating the unconscious of the reader. Part III takes examples from the rhetoric of clinical discourse, showing how practitioners are aware of a range of poetic meanings for both patient and analyst. The three parts demonstrate that all language is inescapably figural, as it betrays the operations of desire and fantasy in both aesthetic and clinical discourse.




This book is suitable for second- and third-year undergraduate students and above in literature and literary theory, feminism and gender studies, and psychoanalysis.
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Table of contents

Acknowledgements vii


Introduction 1


Part I Psychoanalysis and Literature: Freud 11


1 What is a psychoanalytic reading? 13


2 The uncanny and its poetics 18


3 The vagaries of fantasy: Alfred Kubin s The Other Side 31


4 Maladies of the soul: the poetics of Julia Kristeva 41


Part II Psychoanalysis and Language: Lacan 59


5 What is a discourse? 61


6 The indirections of desire: Hamlet 77


7 Inscribing the body politic: Robert Coover s Spanking the Maid 86


8 What does Woman want?: The Double Life of Veronique 104


Part III Patients and Analysts: Readers and Texts 115


9 What is a clinical case ? 117


10 The rhetoric of clinical discourse: Dialogue with Sammy 132


11 The rhetoric of clinical management: Bion and Minuchin 140


12 Out of tune: Elfriede Jelinek s The Piano Teacher 154


Conclusion 165


Notes 169


Bibliography 186


Index 193
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Review quote

"The extraordinary achievement of Wrighta s book is that it inverts the standard psychoanalytic approach to art, which consists in bringing to light the unconscious pathological complexes that underlie the work of art -- for Wright, and in the best Lacanian tradition, it is the poetics, the rhetorical strategies of language itself, that provide the key to the formations of the unconscious. The consequent deployment of this insight makes the book an instant classic that will stay around for decades." Slavoj Zizek "Elizabeth Wright provides a "how--to" handbook on reading literary texts through psychoanalytic theory. She carefully and intelligently presents a compact description of a psychoanalytic reading, defines "discourse", as well as the "clinical case". These are the three core concepts for any understanding of a psychoanalytic approach to literature and language. They are well illustrated by insightful and comprehensible examples from Shakespeare to the German expressionist Alfred Kubin and the American writer Robert Coover and by examples from pyschoanalysts Julia Kristeva, Joyce McDougall and Wilfred Bion. An indispensable guide for student and critic alike." Sander Gilman "With an acute eye Speaking Desires seamlessly weaves together psychoanalytic theory and literary criticism as only one equally at ease in both discourses can do." Psychoanalytic Studies
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About Elizabeth Wright

Elizabeth Wright was formerly at Girton College, Cambridge.
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