There is a strain of Freudians whose existence continues to go unrec-ognized by the intellectual public and unacknowledged by the members themselves. Of these, only Stanley Cavell was unaccredited as a psychoanalyst, but he, along with Adam Phillips, Christopher Bollas, and Jonathan Lear have reached similar conclusions, using comparable means, at roughly the same time, in a context as much literary as psychoanalytic. Freud himself described the mind in literary (which is to say, dramatic) terms, but whereas he understood the human psychic drama as Oedipal and thus tragic, these four revisionists have shown that the interaction of conscious and unconscious elements of the mind can be comical and thus benign. The sorts of ambivalence, conflictedness, or multi-mindedness that Freud described as departures from a normative singlemindedness, Cavell and company have redescribed as achievements of maturity and as a means of enlarging the self. Moreover, they all look to literature for figures that connect us to our preverbal selves and help to stimulate self-transformation. Artists—from Sophocles to Emerson, Melville, and (in the Cavellian reading of him) Freud—teach invaluable lessons not only about how our minds work but also about how to invent our own idioms and even our own worlds. And “the dialogue of the mind with itself” that Matthew Arnold assessed as the characteristic modern disease, these most sophisticated of postmodern revisionists redescribe as normative and democratic.
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Adeena Assif; “The Dialogue of the Mind with Itself”: Freud, Cavell, and Company. Common Knowledge 1 January 2020; 26 (1): 12–38. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-7899712
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