R. Gray

German 390/Comp. Lit 396/Engl 363/CHID 498/JSIS 488/Lit 298

Freud and the Literary Imagination

In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud discusses his analytical technique whereby his patients are encouraged to pay attention to all the "involuntary ideas" that come up by association during the discussion of a dream and its analysis. He encourages them to shut down their rational critique and let these ideas emerge freely. In this context he writes:

"The adoption of the required attitude of mind towards ideas that seem to emerge 'of their own free will' and the abandonment of the critical function that is normally in operation against them seem to be hard of achievement for some people. The 'involuntary thoughts' are liable to release a most violent resistance, which seeks to prevent their emergence. If we may trust that great poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, however, poetic creation must demand an exactly similar attitude. In a passage in his correspondence with Körner [. . .] Schiller replies to his friend's complaint of insufficient productivity: 'The ground for your complaint seems to me to lie in the constraint imposed by your reason upon your imagination. I will make my idea more concrete by a simile. It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work of the mind if Reason makes too close an examination of the ideas as they come pouring in--at the very gateway, as it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial or very fantastic; but it may be made important by another thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn out to form a most effective link. [. . .] [W]here there is a creative mind, Reason--so it seems to me--relaxes its watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it look them through and examine them in a mass. You critics, or whatever else you may call yourselves, are ashamed or frightened of the momentary and transient extravagances which are to be found in all truly creative minds and whose longer or shorter duration distinguishes the thinking artist from the dreamer.'" (Interpretation of Dreams 135)