This essay argues that psychoanalytic literary criticism has largely failed because it has assumed that literature and psychoanalysis share common analytical ground. It contends that psychoanalytic approaches necessarily deform literature, that literary readings deform psychoanalytic theory, and that the assumption of commonality between poetics and psychoanalysis causes psychoanalytic literary criticism to go astray. Advocating the opposite approach, the essay sets poetics against psychoanalysis, contending that where their mutual tension and disfigurement is recognized and investigated, psychoanalysis and literature can become genuinely available to one another.

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