115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Freud and Cervantes: The Problematic Use of Psychoanalysis and Literature

Judit Palencia Gutiérrez, "University of California, Riverside"

Through examining Cervante’s narratology, along with Freud’s theories – especially on the splitting on the ego and its subsequent Verleugnung – I try to explain some tautological mistakes generally assumed by literary critics that use psychoanalysis as putting  a coat of paint on a literary text, filtering the fragment for their own benefit and undermining the writer’s own theories.

Proposal: 

In 1908, Freud publishes Creative Writers and Daydreaming, essay based on an informal speech he gave, and that focuses on the psychoanalytical relationship between the literary author and his/her work, establishing an analogy between the writing process and writer’s unfulfilled dreams. It is, precisely, this essay the one that Peter Brooks takes as the starting point for the application of psychoanalysis to literature. What is the relationship between narratology and psychoanalysis? How can we implement literature to study psychoanalysis and vice versa? What have been the traditional approaches to explain one from another? This paper examines the limitations embedded in the application of psychoanalysis to a literary text so as to offer an explanation on how to overcome them.  Through examining Cervante’s narratology, along with Freud’s theories – especially on the splitting on the ego and its subsequent Verleugnung – I try to explain some tautological mistakes generally assumed by literary critics that use psychoanalysis as putting  a coat of paint on a literary text, filtering the fragment for their own benefit and undermining the writer’s own theories.

Focusing on Rinconete and Cortadillo, from Cervante’s Exemplary Novels, I strive to offer an example on how to use psychoanalysis to study literature and the other way round. In doing so, I point some difficulties that were challenging to overcome without finding myself drown in the tautological mistakes I talked about before. Rinconete and Cortadillo offers a terrific theory that focuses on the trauma of desidentification, the splitting of the ego through nominalization and materialization – recalling Marx’s statement of nominalization as being the first step towards materialization. Furthermore, after examining Cervante’s construction of the narrative voice as a trickster, I offer some insights around the limitations of narratology and the idea of using psychoanalysis to overcome them.