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The Dreams of InterpretationReview - The Dreams of Interpretation
A Century down the Royal Road
by Catherine Liu, John Mowitt, Thomas Pepper and Jakki Spicer (Editor)
University of Minnesota Press, 2007
Review by Kevin M. Purday
Dec 16th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 51)

This is a collection of essays written by psychoanalysts but also by theorists in the areas of culture, film and literature. It is trumpeted as a major re-examination of the legacy of Sigmund Freud. Several of the essays also attempt to combine psychoanalytical and hermeneutic insights and the book as a whole adds up to an attempt to reinforce the notion that Freud -- and especially his The Interpretation of Dreams -- has radically altered the way in which we understand ourselves and express ourselves in our culture.

There is an introduction: "What Are You Doing Tonight?" by Catherine Liu, John Mowitt, Thomas Pepper, and Jakki Spicer and then the essays are grouped under seven headings:

A) Relations with Neighbors: Ethics

i) The Ethics of the Dreamer by Gérard Pommier

ii) "In dreams begin responsibilities":  Toward Dream Ethics by Jean-Michel Rabaté

iii) The Dream in the Wake of the Freudian Rupture by Willy Apollon

iv) Freud's Dream of America by Patricia Gherovici

v) Literature and Pathology: Masochism Takes the Upper Hand by Avital Ronell

B) Family, Friends, and Other Relations

i) Sounds of Satan by Laurence A. Rickels

ii) Heteros Autos: Freud's Fatherhood by Silke-Maria Weineck

iii) "Non vixit": Friends Survived by Elke Siegel

C) Other Desires

i) The Dream between Drive and Desire: A Question of Representability by Paul Verhaeghe

ii) Is Lacan Borderline? by Judith Feher-Gurewich

iii) Dream Model and Mirroring Anxiety: Sexuality and Theory by Claire Nahon

D) Focuses on the Apparatus

i) Closing and Opening of the Dream: Must Chapter VII Be Rewritten? by Jean Laplanche

ii) Dreaming and Cinematographic Consciousness by Laura Marcus

iii) A Knock Made for the Eye: Image and Awakening in Deleuze and Freud by Yün Peng

E) Matters of Intensity

i) Insomnia by Pablo Kovalovsky

ii) Strange Intelligibility: Clarity and Vivacity in Dream Language by Rei Terada

F) Interpretative Arts

i) The Marnie Color by Raymond Bellour

ii) "Other Languages": Testimony, Transference, and Translation in Documentary Film by Jonathan Kahana

iii) Wondrous Objectivity: Art History, Freud, and Detection by Andrew McNamara

G) Thoughtful Articulations

i) Marx, Condensed and Displaced by A. Kiarina Kordela

ii) The Substance of Psychic Life by Karyn Ball

iii) Young Mr. Freud; or, On the Becoming of an Artist: Freud's Various Paths to the Dream Book, 1882–99 by Klaus Theweleit

iv) Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of: Freud, Life, and Literature by Mary Lydon

v) A Disturbance of Memory at the Podium: To Mary Lydon in Memoriam by John Mowitt

I do not intend to write about each of these essays some of which are of high quality and of great interest to specialists in the field. Instead, I would like to make some summary comments at the level of generalization. It is true that psychoanalysis tends to be at the unverifiable end of the psychology spectrum. However, that is not an excuse to indulge in language that is so verbose, obscure and abstruse that it becomes a code only decipherable by members of the inner circle of the psychoanalytic club. Like others who have undergone their apprenticeship in psychoanalysis but who have studied it as one branch out of many in psychology, I understand the language and where the ideas are coming from. However, much of this volume strikes me as willfully arcane. The tone is set by the introduction where we get sentences such as "The ideology involved in both sets of proclamations – psychoanalysis's death, Terror! -- is sutured of the same phantasm, and hangs together (returns to the same place) with an overwhelming structural necessity." (p.xiv)

Rather like the bystanders who observed the emperor in his 'new clothes', I am sure that many people will pay lip service to this volume. Indeed, some articles are worthy additions to their field of study. However, I suggest that possible readers should be aware that much of the collection is so cryptic as to be virtually unintelligible.       

© 2008 Kevin M. Purday

Kevin M. Purday has just completed his fortieth year as a teacher and has recently returned to the U.K. after being principal of schools in the Middle East and Far East. His great interests are philosophy and psychology.


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