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This review is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

MERGINGS AND MARGINS Daniel Gunn, Psychoanalysis and Fiction: An Exploration of Literary and Psychoanalytic Borders (Cambridge) £25.00

Ambivalence marks the relationship of psychoanalysis and fiction. Seeming close in some key respects, each has been judged a pale repetition of the other: psychoanalysis a reductive formulation of insights already achieved, far more subtly, in fiction; fiction a naive encoding of experiences that only psychoanalysis can articulate therapeutically and theoretically. The balance has often changed, sometimes drastically. In mid-20th century English literary criticism, the influence of Leavis - whose texts, like Freud's, seek both to seduce and compel, promise complicity and authority - repressed psychoanalysis almost to invisibility, D.H. Lawrence supplying the supposedly overwhelming alternative. In today's dominant approaches, the repressed has returned with a vengeance. Especially in that quicksilver signifier 'Lacan', always prone to harden into an icon after Magritte, its face folded back to reveal a mirror whose high, blank disc compels.

Psychoanalysis blinds when it is seen more as product than process. Witness Lacan reified by British literalism: speculation sets into a speculum that thralls the eyes. Daniel Gunn's study does not make this mistake. Indeed, it is subtly attentive and responsive to process, whether in the texts of Kafka, Proust and Beckett, or of the psychoanalysts Serge Leclaire and Maud Mannoni. Lacan is displaced in Gunn's book - cited at significant moments, clearly respected this side idolatory, and a writer without whom, one feels (searching for origins), this work would not have been possible in quite its present form. But Gunn turns his attention to those analysts, like Leclaire and Mannoni, who ...


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